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Gambia Signs Cluster Munitions Convention

Dec 16, 2008, 6:31 AM

On the 3rd of December The Gambia was among 94 countries that converged on the OsloCity Hall and signed the remarkable convention to ban cluster bombs forever. The delegation was led by the Secretary of State for Interior, Mr Ousman Sonko, Deputy Permanent Secretary of Defence Mr Mustapha Jobe and Mrs Fatoumatta Sidibeh, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Office of the President. Civil society was also represented by the National Network Co-ordinator of the West Africa Network for Peace building (Wanep) The Gambia, Ms. Pamela Cole, a member of the Cluster Munitions Coalition (CMC).

In what was regarded as a truly historic and inspiring event, participating government representatives delivered statements of congratulations, appreciation and support for the treaty and highlighted the need to expedite the ratification process in order to bring about the entry into force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. It was also a day of celebration, hope and resolve; celebration that such monumental effort by governments and civil society bas resulted in a signed treaty. It also means hope for the victims that the Convention on Cluster Munitions particularly has set the highest standard to date in international law for assistance to victims and their communities. It shows a very clear resolve by government and civil society to keep the momentum going and work even harder towards the ratification and implementation.

Secretary of State Sonko joined other states to congratulate the Government of Norway for their leadership role in launching and driving the Oslo process leading up to the signing conference of the convention. He further stated that although The Gambia has never produced, used, stockpiled or transferred cluster munitions, it is fully committed to the convention and will work towards ratification and implementation. Alongside the 94 countries that signed the Convention, four countries - Sierra Leone, Norway, the Holy See and Ireland - not only signed the Convention but further deposited their instruments of ratification opening the way toward realisation of the Convention. The Convention bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions. It also obliges nations to destroy all stockpiles within eight years and to clear contaminated land within 10 years.

Cluster munitions are large weapons which are either dropped from the air or launched from the ground release up to hundreds of smaller sub-munitions. Air dropped or ground launched; cluster munitions cause humanitarian problems and risks to civilians. Survivors from some of the most affected countries, including Laos, Cambodia, Serbia and Lebanon, spoke at the signing ceremony alongside national delegations. However, countries like the US, China, Russia and Israel are yet to sign the Convention. Nonetheless, as with the treaty banning antipersonnel landmines, this treaty will make it difficult for countries that have not signed to ever use these weapons again.

It is hoped that the number of signatory countries will rise to 100 before the end of the year given the fact that several states were unable to sign due to improper paper work.

On the occasion of the signing of the Convention by the Government of The Gambia, Wanep Gambia registered its gratitude and congratulations to the Government under the leadership of His Excellency Alh. Prof. Yahya AJJ Jammeh and the people of The Gambia for this "bold move". A press statement further stated that, "Indeed The Gambia will go down in history for being among the pioneers for the eradication of cluster munitions. Wanep Gambia would like to urge the Government and the National Assembly to continue on the same speed to ratify this convention and incorporate its provisions in the laws of The Gambia."

In conclusion the statement said, "Cluster munitions are a threat to human lives and retard development. They leave indelible scar on communities and land which in most cases stunt the national developmental processes."