Representatives from more than 40 African nations are
meeting today in Kampala, Uganda, to promote the signing of the cluster
munitions are either dropped from the air or launched from the ground and eject
many small bombs. Supporters of the treat say the weapons have been used in
Angola, Chad, DRC, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Morocco. The treaty is scheduled to be
signed December 3rd in Oslo, Norway.
One of those promoting the treaty is Mary Wareham
of Human Rights Watch, which is a member of the Cluster Munition Coalition.
From Kampala, she spoke to English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua
about today's meeting.
"This is one of a series of regional conferences
that are being held…to build interest in and obtain political support for the
convention on cluster munitions, which of course will be open for signature in
Norway on the third of December. So, we're bringing governments together here
in Kampala for two days, the Ugandan government is, to talk about cluster
munitions and in particular to get them to signal their intent to sign the
convention," she says.
Explaining where African nations stand on the
treaty, Wareham says, "Africa has had some experience with cluster
munitions…and a few stockpiled the weapons. It participated in the treaty
negotiations. Thirty-four countries from the region were there in Dublin. They
adopted the convention in May 2008 and now we're on the road to Oslo, where it
will be signed…. They were very strong at the treaty negotiations in seeking a
comprehensive prohibition on the weapon and good assistance clauses to help
those people who've been hurt by it and to clear up the remnants. There were
several states who did not participate in the negotiations of the treaty and
we've been trying to reach out to them. One way is to bring them together,
which is what we're doing in Kampala."
The December third signing date is the same date
used for the signing of the landmine treaty in Ottawa over 10 years ago. "It's
the International Day for Persons with Disabilities. And that's, I think, why
Norway thought it would be a good idea to open it for signature…on that day,"
Wareham expects a good turnout in Oslo. "By the
looks of this conference and the African states, I think that we're going to
get a very good number on board. There are 43 countries from Africa here at
this meeting…. We're going to get a good number of states from Africa, from
Latin America, from Europe, from Asia and the Pacific. It's the same as
landmines. The big states do not like the way in which this process was carried
out, where instead of being negotiated in Geneva and in New York, it was taken
into the capitals of the countries who really wanted to do something about
this…. We're not likely to see the United States or China or Russia signing on
the third of December," she says.
The Human Rights Watch spokesperson says she
hopes the treaty will influence those nations to stop using cluster munitions.
Earlier this year, the United States rejected an
international ban on cluster munitions. A State Department spokesman said,
"These munitions do have a place and use in military inventories, given the
right technology, as well as the proper rules of engagement." He said the
United States takes "very seriously the international discussion with respect
to the threat posed by unexploded ordnance to innocent civilians."