There is good news coming from Africa once again, with the conference on universalizing the Convention on Cluster Munitions concluding today in Lomé. The Lomé Universalization Strategy on the Convention on Cluster Munitions was adopted by 35 participating African countries, comprising 17 States Parties, 13 signatories, and five non-states parties, Eritrea, Libya, Gabon, South Sudan, and Zimbabwe. (Morocco also participated in the conference but was the sole state to distance itself from adopting the Lomé Universalization Strategy.)
The declaration contains detailed actions and concrete commitments by states to work towards universalizing the ban on cluster munitions. It also expresses the grave concern of states who were present over “the recent and on-going use of cluster munitions, as well as the effects of these weapons, that have led to mounting numbers of victims, including women and children. “
Highlights from the conference included positive statements from four non- signatories, Zimbabwe, South Sudan, Libya, and Eritrea, on acceding to the convention. It also included updates from 11 countries, Uganda, Madagascar, Liberia, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, the Gambia, South Africa, Republic of Congo, Benin, Namibia and Niger, on progress towards completing ratification.
Two countries, South Africa and Guinea Bissau, strongly condemned any continued use of cluster munitions, referring to the recent and ongoing use of cluster bombs by the Syrian government.
A number of other delegations reported on progress towards enacting national implementation legislation or on the status of Article 7 transparency reporting. A few others, Mauritania, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, and the DRC, gave updates on clearance and stockpile destruction efforts in their countries.
Togo’s Minister of Health, Charles Kondi Agba, opened the conference, strongly affirming Togo’s commitment to the convention and urging all African states to join the convention and to ratify it as soon as possible. Togo gave a summary of African countries’ positions on the convention, highlighting the three African countries –
Togo, Chad, and Cameroon – that completed ratification following the Accra Conference.
Ghana and Zambia gave presentations on their universalization efforts, urging all delegations to join the convention. Zambia announced it had decided to make universalization the theme of the Fourth Meeting of State Parties in Lusaka, noting that it had decided to include a segment at the beginning of the conference. Zambia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs has already sent letters inviting heads of state and ministers to attend, it said. Ghana notified delegations that it was circulating a questionnaire by email on universalization status and will collate responses to share them as a report.
Kokou Aklavon and Aynalem Zenebe did a brilliant job of speaking on behalf of the CMC on the opening panel and Bob Mtonga, in his inimitable style, had the whole room laughing as he began naming and shaming diplomats one by one, to tell them it was “time to rise and shine” and get their acts together, as Zambia is calling.
During the conference, Mali, Republic of Congo, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Swaziland, Madagascar, Niger, Burkina Faso, made strong appeals on universalization, urging all African countries to join the convention and make Africa the first continent free of cluster munitions.
Updates on Accession from Non-signatories
Non-signatory Zimbabwe announced the its government “has been seriously considering” acceding to the Convention on Cluster Munitions and welcomed the 4MSP being held in its region. However, Zimbabwe relayed it has been having considerable challenges redrafting its constitutional legislation over the past two years. Elections are upcoming and the current parliament will be dissolved on 29 June of this year, but the delegate was assured the accession of the convention would be put for consideration by the new government.
South Sudan was encouraging, saying that the government was committed to acceding to the CCM “as soon as possible.” It had not yet been able to do so due to competing priorities, but the representative pledged to inform the government and ensure a process on accession is undertaken. South Sudan stressed the importance of capacity building and technical and financial support to work on the implementation of the convention. It suggested that ECOWAS should be used as a forum to promote the convention and should be empowered to support CCM member states at the regional level.
Libya spoke to say that a committee within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is reconsidering all international treaties that the previous regime had not joined. The representative was optimistic that Libya will join both the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Mine Ban Treaty and that there were no obstacles to doing so, other than “just a matter of time” until it joins the convention.
Eritrea stated that while it has not yet signed the CCM, it fully supported its spirit and progress to implement it. Eritrea said it does not stockpile or transfer cluster munitions and that the obstacle to joining the convention has primarily been that of internal miscommunication and changeover between officials participating in CCM meetings. There has been some discussion of acceding in the Foreign Ministry but not yet concretely, it said, and it promised to make stronger efforts and form a committee to deal with the accession process.
Syria and Condemnation of Use of Cluster Munitions
South Africa led on condemning the use of cluster munitions in Syria, saying that it deplored any use of cluster munitions by any state, including the recent alleged use in Syria, and stressed the need to continue to stigmatize the use of cluster munitions.
Guinea Bissau stated it is deeply concerned about recent reports of the use of cluster munitions, and that any use must be strongly condemned and stigmatized by the international community.
Cameroon said that it missed its chance to condemn the use of cluster munitions by Syria during the conference sessions but insisted that the Lomé Universalization Strategy include a condemnation on the use of cluster munitions.
Signatories with ratification updates An encouraging number of participants had good news to deliver on their progress to ratify the convention. Uganda said its draft ratification instrument is before the Solicitor General’s office and that the Minister of Defense has notified the Cabinet of the draft. Uganda sounded very optimistic that it can complete ratification before the Fourth Meeting of State Parties.
Madagascar had positive news for the first time, saying that the political crisis that has prevented it from ratifying since 2009 is coming to an end. It expects that by July 2013, a national assembly and head of state will be in place and it will urge that ratification happens as quickly as possible.
Liberia stated that a committee is working on ratification and progress has carried out consultations with relevant members of its national legislature. It said that a focal person in the legislature has been identified and will fast track the process once the ratification instrument reaches him. Liberia said that it hoped to complete the process before September and the Fourth Meeting of State Parties.
Tanzania said that its efforts on ratification were “proceeding well.” Several consultation meetings with relevant actors have been conducted and the government is committed that these consultations will reach consensus on ratification. Tanzania said it welcomed the high-level segment at the Fourth Meeting of State Parties as a helpful measure to facilitate ratification.
The Democratic Republic of Congo said that the Vice Prime Minister and the Minister of Interior had sent letters to the President asking that ratification of the CCM be fast-tracked. It stated it hoped it could complete the process by the end of the current parliamentary session and participate at the Fourth Meeting of State Parties as a State Party.
In March 2011, the Vice Prime Minister submitted a draft bill authorizing ratification, which was adopted and sent to the senate for approval. However, presidential elections in 2011 have meant that all pending legislation must be reintroduced in both chambers of parliament.
The Gambia reported that it has set up an inter-ministerial committee to advocate for ratification. This process began in December 2012 and the only obstacle is a backlog of cases pending cabinet level approval before they can be submitted to the national assembly, the representative said. He too hoped that the Gambia will be able come to Zambia with better news.
Niger stated the draft bill on ratification was “in the process of being signed.”
South Africa said that it had completed its legal process on ratification and that it awaited approval by a government committee before it can be signed by the President. It said it will complete ratification by the end of 2013 or early 2014 at the latest.
The Republic of Congo stated ratification had been sent for adoption by its dual houses of parliament in March 2011. It said that it had not been able to complete ratification by the end of 2011 as it had hoped, but it was “making progress.”
Benin was more vague, with the representative saying he had been “assured that things are moving and that very soon the bill on ratification will reach the national assembly.” He pledged to do everything possible to get the government to approach the national assembly to approve the bill before the Fourth Meeting of State Parties. Namibia said that a consultation process on ratification was “in progress.”
Progress on National Implementation Legislation by States Parties
Ghana gave a detailed presentation on its draft implementation legislation, including penal sanctions, and the process to finalize its approval. Ghana asked for input from affected states and proposed that developing comprehensive draft model legislation for African states would be useful. To this end, it announced that it will hold a Workshop of Legal and Technical Experts to draft such model laws and that it had already developed a number of tools for ratification including a draft cabinet memo and draft parliamentary memo that it would share with delegates. The Gambia and Republic of Congo expressed support for this initiative. Djibouti proposed that the meeting be held in Addis Ababa, to which Ghana agreed.
Zambia made an appeal for more rapid progress to enact implementation legislation and said from its end, a national law has reached an “advanced stage” with a memorandum having been sent to its cabinet that will transmit the legislation to parliament shortly. Zambia said it was working very hard to ensure that it is passed before the Fourth Meeting of State Parties.
ICRC and UNDP also gave presentations on enacting national implementation legislation in Africa.
Mali said it was taking measures to implement the convention and announced that it would participate in the Fourth Meeting of State Parties at a “very high level.” Mali stated that it is experiencing a difficult and serious security situation but it was not using cluster munitions. The government has neither stockpiled nor used these weapons, Mali emphasized.
Cote d’Ivoire reported that measures have been taken by its national assembly to make it possible for Cote d’Ivoire to update its laws to comply with international conventions.
Guinea Bissau said that it considers existing legislation sufficient to cover both antipersonnel mines and cluster munitions, and that sanctions against any violation of either convention are clear in its penal code.
The DRC stated it will amend its existing legislation on the Mine Ban Treaty to apply to the Convention on Cluster Munitions as well and that a workshop has been held to start work on the process. The Seychelles said that it would also look to amend its law enacting the Mine Ban Treaty’s provisions to include cluster munitions and would look to the ICRC and UN Regional Center for Peace and Disarmament in Africa for assistance. It said it hoped to complete the process by the end of this year or the first half of next.
Likewise, Burundi stated that it will contact the ICRC to ask for its advice on enacting national implementation legislation. Burkina Faso said it had already met with the ICRC in Ouagadougou to discuss this.
Mali reported that its process to pass national implementation legislation will have to start over following upcoming elections, but it will continue to work to enact them.
Clearance and Stockpile Destruction
Mauritania stated that cluster munition contamination continued to be a problem for development in the north of the country and that it was working with its national demining office on clearance. It noted it had previously identified affected zones in the country, and now eight additional contaminated areas of about 10 square kilometers have been identified that it is currently working to clear.
Cote d’Ivoire recounted events undertaken earlier this year with support from UNMAS to destroy its stockpiled cluster munitions, which were purchased by the government in the military and political crisis following the 2010 presidential elections. Cote d’Ivoire stated that all stocks of cluster munitions have been destroyed and that it has not kept any cluster munitions for training purposes because “it does not want these weapons in its arsenal.” It also offered to host the next meeting of the CCM.
Guinea Bissau reported that it had asked for assistance from UNMAS to destroy its stockpile but the political situation in the country had stalled the process. It hoped that it would be able to renew its efforts shortly.
The DRC reported on the level of contamination on its territory from cluster munitions. In March this year, the government launched a national survey of suspected areas, with the aim to identify all contaminated zones as part of its preparation of its Mine Ban Treaty extension request. Likewise, the DRC reported on progress made to destroy its stockpiles from 2011 to 2013.
Article 7 reporting
Swaziland called on other states to follow its example and submit their Article 7 transparency reports. It said that it hoped all states will one day report as it does, that they do not use, stockpile, produce, or transfer cluster munitions. A number of countries which have submitted Article 7 reports, including the Seychelles and Cote d’Ivoire spoke up to say so. The DRC appealed for countries to submit reports, noting that it has continued to submit voluntary ones as a sign of its commitment to the convention.
Burkina Faso pledged to do everything possible to quickly prepare and forward its Article 7 report for 2012.
Guinea Bissau said that as the process to destroy its stockpile had stalled, it had not submitted its first Article 7 report because it did not yet have confident information about the cluster bombs in its stockpile.
Mali stated that after upcoming elections it will submit its 2012 Article 7 report.
The conclusion of the conference hit a bit of a snag, as delegates spent considerable time squabbling over the wording of the proposed Lomé Declaration, which was all the more complicated by linguistic issues between the French and English versions. Fundamentally, however, a number of delegations had objections to the inclusion of wording condemning the use of cluster munitions, even without naming Syria explicitly, and over the title and the status of the outcome document.
Several delegations, including one non-state party, pushed for the document to be called the “Lomé Commitments,” after a number of delegations, including States Parties, objected to the document being called a “Declaration.” These delegations objected further to the document being called a set of commitments and insisted on calling them “Recommendations.” This discussion went on for several hours, with “recommendations” eventually being gaveled through from the podium.
Bob Mtonga went on the record for CMC to say that we were very unhappy with this decision, noting that the Accra Conference concluded with agreement on a Plan of Action on universalization, and the Kampala Conference likewise. Bob stated that while the CMC strongly supports the Lomé outcome document’s content, we did not see why this agreement would be diminished in status from previous outcome documents. This would be a stain on an otherwise very, very good clear fabric created here in Lomé, Bob stressed on behalf of the CMC.
A compromise was finally reached between the Francophone and Anglophone groups that the document be called “The Lomé Universalization Strategy on the Convention of Cluster Munitions” ou en français “la strategie de lome sur l’universalisation de la ccm.” The CMC stated that while it was less than happy about these discussions, in a spirit of compromise, this document should be understood to be the basis for concrete action on universalization and to move forward the work of the Convention, in line with the very positive discussions we have had this week.
Bob then called upon all participants to go home happy, and confident that CMC will be with them all the way, and for those who have yet to do so to ratify and accede as quickly as possible so that we can make this “Africa’s time.”
All in all, the conference was a quite a success and showed that African states are again leading the way forward to make the convention a reality. The content of the Lomé Universalization Strategy adopted is very strong and will be an excellent milestone to report progress against. An enormous thank you to our wonderful host and Togolese CMC campaigner extraordinaire, Kokou Avalon, and to all of the CMC team here in Lomé. It has been a pleasure to be here this week and to watch this truly fantastic campaign in action again. Onwards to Zambia with pride!
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