Michael P. Moore, Landmines in Africa, and Monitor Victim Assistance Team Editor.
Many think of Lebanon or Laos when cluster munitions are mentioned, or maybe Cambodia or Kosovo. However, we should also think about Sudan, the area of Western Sahara, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, South Sudan, Angola, Eritrea, and Sierra Leone — all countries that have lost citizens to cluster munitions. There are Zambia, Chad and Nigeria — countries that have condemned usage. The Balkans, Southeast Asia and the Middle East have had the headlines on cluster munitions, but Africa is also where the story of cluster munitions is told.
In 2008, Zambia hosted a major regional conference to build solidarity and discuss a common position on the Oslo Process that led to the Convention on Cluster Munitions. In 2013 Zambia hosted the Fourth Meeting of States Parties to the Convention, reaffirming that country’s leadership in the Convention. But Zambia, as a country that never produced, stockpiled or suffered the effects of cluster munitions, is not the only African nation involved in the fight against this weapon.
Last month, Angola, Chad and Nigeria joined with other members of the United Nations Security Council to express concern about the use of cluster munitions in Sudan earlier this year. Of the forty-three African nations to sign or ratify the Convention, the Central African Republic, Ghana and the Republic of Congo have all destroyed their stockpiles of cluster munitions. But more is needed.
First, the 16 African nations that have signed but not ratified the Convention – Angola, Benin, Central African Republic, DR Congo, Djibouti, Gambia, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, São Tomé and Principe, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda – should ratify soon. Many of these countries will participate in the Review Conference on the Convention in September and ratification would show their commitment to the Convention.
Second, the dozen African states not participating in the Convention – Algeria, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan and Zimbabwe – should accede. Equatorial Guinea and Gabon have never possessed cluster munitions nor been affected by them, so joining the Convention for those states should be relatively simple. Ethiopia, Eritrea, Libya, South Sudan and Sudan have all suffered casualties from cluster munition use and the strong victim assistance provisions in the Convention would ensure adequate care and treatment for the survivors.
When the Mine Ban Treaty was being drafted, the participation and championship for the cause from African states helped generate the necessary momentum to create the global norm against landmine use. The norm against cluster munition use has been challenged by recent use in Libya, South Sudan and Sudan and a United Africa could re-establish the norm. All of Subsaharan Africa has committed to a world free of anti-personnel landmines. All of Africa should commit to a world free of cluster munitions.