African states reinforced their ownership of the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) at a global conference hosted by the governments of Chile and Norway in collaboration with UNDP held 7-9 June in Santiago, Chile. The CCM is the most significant international disarmament treaty since the 1997 Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention. Over 100 governments attended the conference, of which 33 were African states (Angola, Botswana, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, CAR, Chad, Comoros, Republic of Congo, Cote D'Ivoire, DRC, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Seychelles and Togo. Non-signatory states included Djibouti, Egypt, Mauritius, Sudan and Zimbabwe).
Nearly a third of the continent`s countries are affected by cluster munitions, including Chad, Angola, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Eritrea, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Uganda.
The Convention was adopted by 107 states on 30 May 2008 in Dublin and signed on 3 December of the same year in Oslo, Norway. The convention will become binding international law on 1 August 2010. African states are among those that campaigned for strong measures contained in this convention in meetings held in Lima, Vienna and Wellington. A number of regional meetings were also held throughout the process in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Serbia, Zambia, Uganda, Lebanon and South Africa. The regional meetings promoted universalisation of the Convention; enhanced understanding on the provisions of the Convention and on the national steps needed for ratification and implementation; and informed states in the region about the CCM. Also, the meetings helped to raise the number of African signatories and ratifications to the Convention. Burkina Faso became the 30th country to ratify on 16 February 2010.
Cluster Munitions are air- or ground launched canisters that each contain up to 650 individual submunitions or bomblets. Although designed to explode on impact, submunitions often fail to do so. Their deferred explosions often cause injuries and death long after armed conflict has ceased.
The Convention comprehensively bans the use, production and transfer of cluster munitions and sets strict deadlines for stockpile destruction and clearance of contaminated land. In addition, the Convention obliges states to assist survivors and affected communities. Over 125 campaigners attending the Santiago Conference agreed that great strides have been made in getting cluster munitions banned but there is still some way to go because there are states that have not signed the Convention and many that have signed but not ratified. Thirteen African states that have not yet signed are: Algeria, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Libya, Mauritius, Morocco, Sudan, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe.
The conference sought to elaborate on the plan of action to implement the Convention and laid the foundation for the First Meeting of States Parties (1st MSP) to be held in Vientiane - Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) from 8-12 November 2010. A number of countries provided updates on steps they are taking to adhere to the CCM, others reinstated their commitment to the objectives and principles of the Convention. While engaging in the lively debate, 12 African states that are signatories to the CCM-announced that they are undertaking internal processed to ratify soon (Guinea Bissau, Mali, Togo, Chad, DRC, Congo, Madagascar, Botswana, Angola, Senegal, Kenya and Mozambique).
The draft Programme of Work for 2011, also known as the Vientiane Action Plan was presented and discussed for input. The priorities of the Vientiane Action Plan to be adopted at the 1st MSP far are to:
• Guide the work of the States Parties during the first year of implementation by identifying steps that need to be taken to ensure that the CCM effective, efficient and sustainable;
• Ensure that progress is monitored at regular intervals;
• Identify possible new partnerships that may support rapid implementation, such as private sector;
• Ensure global adherence to the CCM and promote its universal norm;
• Develop strategies to guide the destruction of stockpiled cluster munitions - Regional solutions have been encouraged as the most effective method for African states);
• Facilitate rapid clearance of areas affected by cluster munitions and provide for risk education;
• Assist victims of cluster munitions;
• Provide actions on how the provision on International Cooperation and Assistance can be best utilised as implementation support to universalisation, stockpile destruction and land clearance. South Africa as a Friend to the President of the 1st MSP (Lao PDR) is providing input on this;
• Prepare for a substantial 2nd Meeting of States Parties.
The governments of Norway and Lao PDR will continue to consult States Parties and relevant partners on the Vientiane Action Plan in the lead up to a Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meeting scheduled for 6 September 2010 in Geneva in advance of the 1st MSP in Vientiane.
At a recent Africa Regional Seminar on the Implementation of International Humanitarian Law, South Africa reaffirmed that having been a country that used to produce and stockpile clusters munitions, it had come to the belief that cluster munitions had become obsolete as means of modern warfare. South Africa emphasized the fact that CCM contains pioneering provisions, and that South Africa continues to advocate for a Continent that is free of cluster munitions.
Written by: Gugu Dube, Junior Researcher, Arms Management Programme