Efforts are underway to write a treaty that would impose a global ban on the use of cluster munitions. Supporters say the treaty would be similar to the international agreement that banned the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of landmines. Next week, African government representatives will meet in Zambia to coordinate their positions on the proposed treaty. 

Thomas Nash is the coordinator of the Cluster Munition Coalition. From London, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the weapons and the efforts to negotiate a treaty.

?There are many different types of cluster munitions. But a cluster munition is basically a large bomb, artillery shell or rocket that contains dozens or hundreds of smaller sub-munitions. Now, these are the small explosives that are spread over a very wide area?. Many fail to explode, basically becoming landmines for years or decades afterwards,? he says.

They have been used in Africa. ?In fact, one third of all of the places that cluster munitions have been used have been in Africa. Fortunately cluster munitions have only been used in around 30 countries and areas around the world. Unfortunately, landmines were used very widely in the African continent?before the world community took steps to ban them. We now have a chance to prevent that sort of terrible scourge contaminating the African continent,? he says.

African representatives are meeting for two days (March 31st and April 1st) to discuss the issue. Nash says, ?The Livingstone Regional Conference on Cluster Munitions, to take place in Zambia next week, is going to be a critical step in building the political momentum and the strength of the African continent?s position on the cluster munition issue prior to the Dublin negotiations, which will really be the final point in determining this new treaty to prohibit these weapons. The African countries participating in the international process to ban cluster munitions have had a very strong voice. And this meeting in Zambia will coordinate their position on the most controversial negotiating issues before the countries from around the world meet in Dublin to finalize this ban.?

The two-week Dublin Diplomatic Conference will be held from May 19th to the 30th. Nineteen African countries have formally endorsed the proposed treaty -- Algeria, Angola, Benin, DRC, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Uganda and Zambia.

The United States, Russia and China have not endorsed a cluster munitions treaty. While the United States has not signed onto the landmine treaty either, its policies have changed enough since the 1997 agreement that it is much more in line with the treaty requirements. Supporters of the cluster munitions treaty say they hope the United States and others will take similar action if they don?t become signatories.