Africa Unites Against Cluster Bombs
un articulo por Stop Cluster Munitions
A meeting to further the global fight against cluster bombs held in Accra, Ghana during the week of May 28 resulted in 34 African countries adopting an action plan with the ultimate aim of a cluster munition-free Africa.
Delegates stand for the Ghanaian national anthem at the opening of the Accra Regional Conference. Photo credit: CMC
click on photo to enlarge
The Accra Universalisation Action Plan lays out practical steps states should take to promote and achieve continent-wide membership of the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, which comprehensively prohibits the use, production, stockpiling, and transfer of these weapons. The document reaffirms the partnership between states, the UN, and civil society to achieve the goals of the treaty and ensure it is fully implemented at the national level.
“Africa has been motivated by putting an end to the devastating harm these weapons cause to civilians wherever they have been used, and for this reason it has been a pioneering continent in banning cluster bombs,” said Ms. Afi Yakubu from the Foundation for Security and Development (FOSDA), the Cluster Munition Coalition’s national member in Ghana. “This week African countries have urged each other to unite and lead the way in ensuring all governments in the region join this treaty. We are pleased with the commitments we have heard,” Yakubu added.
Signatories Cameroon and Togo announced that their governments have approved ratification of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, and will take the final step of depositing the ratification with the UN within weeks. Uganda, where thousands of people are living with injuries caused by lethal explosive remnants of war like cluster bombs, also announced plans to ratify the treaty before states meet again in Oslo in September for the third annual global meeting of States Parties.
Countries in attendance overwhelmingly voiced clear support for the universalisation of the treaty. Fellow signatories Benin, Chad, the Gambia, and South Africa also said that they hope to ratify soon. In another positive move Mauritius, which has not yet joined the treaty, said its National Humanitarian Law Committee will soon consider whether it can accede to the Convention’s terms.
“CMC campaigners from across Africa at the meeting this week are strongly encouraged by all of these positive announcements,” said Dr. Robert Mtonga, CMC member from IPPNW in Zambia. “We will continue to work in partnership with governments and hold them to the strong commitments they made this week,” he added.
On the back of media reports last week of new cluster munition use in Sudan, the Cluster Munition Coalition renewed calls on the Sudanese government to investigate and urged it to join the ban convention.
A total of 34 African states took part in the conference including three that have not yet signed or ratified the Convention (Eritrea, Mauritius and Zimbabwe). Another 18 African countries that have signed, but still need to ratify also attended, as well as 13 full States Parties.
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Here are more recent news on the cluster bombs treaty, as taken from Agence France Presse (very little coverage in the US media, as usual for peace matters).
Observers laud landmark cluster bomb ban
May 28, 2008
DUBLIN (AFP). — Observers on Thursday lauded a landmark treaty agreed by delegates from 111 countries in Dublin to ban cluster bombs, though the deal lacks the backing of major producers and stockpilers.
After 10 days of painstaking negotiations at Croke Park stadium in Dublin, diplomats agreed the wording of a wide-ranging pact to outlaw the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions by its signatories.
It also provides for the welfare of victims and the clearing of areas contaminated by unexploded cluster bombs.
The agreement will be formally adopted on Friday, and signed in Oslo on December 2-3. Signatories would then need to ratify it.
It was hailed in The Independent newspaper in London as a "significant step forward", describing cluster bombs as "little more than air-delivered landmines" and declaring that "there can be no compromise when it comes to cluster bombs."
The newspaper acknowledged in its editorial, however, that the document was weakened by the absence of the United States, Russia, China, India, Israel and Pakistan from the Dublin talks, and thus the agreement.
Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin said the treaty was a "very strong and ambitious text which nevertheless was able to win consensus among all delegations."
"It is a real contribution to international humanitarian law," he added.
The Irish Department for Foreign Affairs said 111 participating states and 18 observer countries attended.
The treaty requires the destruction of stockpiled munitions within eight years -- though it leaves the door open for future, more precise generations of cluster munitions that pose less harm to civilians.
Britain was widely cited by campaigners as being at the forefront of a group of states seeking to water down the treaty.
But in a dramatic move Wednesday, Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced in London that Britain would withdraw all its cluster bombs from service in a bid to "break the log jam" in the Dublin talks.
The draft treaty agreed in Dublin read:
"Each state party undertakes never under any circumstances to:
"(a) Use cluster munitions;
"(b) Develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer to anyone, directly or indirectly, cluster munitions;
"© Assist, encourage or induce anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a state party under this convention."
Much of the wrangling focused on what signatories could and could not do in joint operations with states still using cluster bombs.
The draft text said signatories "may engage in military cooperation and operations".
But the Cluster Munition Coalition, an umbrella group of non-governmental organisations, hopes that the treaty will stigmatise the use of cluster munitions -- as the similar Ottawa Treaty did for landmines -- and stop countries from helping others to use them.
CMC co-chair Simon Conway told AFP the treaty was a compromise but nonetheless "incredibly strong".
"We're going to end up with a strong treaty that prohibits every cluster bomb that's ever been used, with no transition periods, with strong obligations on clearance and particularly strong obligations on victim assistance," he said.
Hildegarde Vansintjan, advocacy officer for disability campaigners Handicap International, said the convention made states responsible for providing assistance to cluster bomb victims.
The treaty "would be a real step forward for the people suffering from cluster munitions all over the world," she told AFP.
The cluster munitions ban process, started by Norway in February 2007, took the same path as the 1997 Ottawa Treaty by going outside the United Nations to avoid vetoes and seal a swift pact.
Cluster munitions are among the weapons that pose the gravest dangers to civilians, especially in heavily bombed countries such as Laos, Vietnam and Afghanistan.
Dropped from planes or fired from artillery, they explode in mid-air, randomly scattering bomblets. Countries are seeking a ban due to the risk of civilians being killed or maimed by their indiscriminate, wide area effect.
They also pose a lasting threat to civilians as many bomblets fail to explode on impact.