Politics of Monday, 28 May 2012
Vice President Dr John Dramani Mahama has reiterated Ghana’s support on the ban and use of cluster bombs due to its indiscriminate effect and deadly legacy that could take years to clean up.
He said Cluster Munitions (CMs) kill or maim civilians including women and children, obstruct economic and social development, which lead to loss of livelihoods, impede post-conflict rehabilitation and construction as well as displacing people internally.
Vice President Mahama made the call in a speech read on his behalf by Alhaji Mohammed Mumuni, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, at the opening session of the Accra Regional Conference on the Universalisation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) in Accra.
The conference was organised by the Governments of Ghana, Togo, and Zambia in collaboration with the UNDP and sponsored by the Norwegian Government.
Vice President Mahama said though Ghana had never procured, stockpiled, manufactured CMs, the country had recognised the immense humanitarian imperative of the convention hence appended her signature on December 2008 and ratified it on August 2010.
He said the Accra Conference would demonstrate the country’s commitment to promoting peaceful co-existence, human security and international co-operation.
Vice President Mahama called for more support for the criminalisation and stigmatisation of the use of CMs by all actors and armed groups that were formed within Sub Saharan Africa, to serve as a deterrent for the use of such weapons in their operations.
“Due to the suffering endured by civilians during and long after CMs had been used, I would like to reiterate the call once again for African States to become party to the convention without delay to demonstrate our collective effort to prevent future human suffering by their use,” he added.
Vice President Mahama urged all States to actively engage in the discussions, share ideas and agree on an action plan that would identify steps that needed to be taken to ensure that the convention was effective in ensuring global adherence and promoting its universal norms.
Lieutenant General Joseph Henry Smith, Minister of Defence, expressed concern on the devastating effects of CMs saying it had inflicted untold sufferings on many people.
“Cluster munitions are deadly both at the time of attack and afterwards as well as during strikes where they blanket areas like the size of football fields with sub munitions that spray high-velocity fragments in all directions,” he said.
Lt. Gen. Smith said many of the sub munitions failed to explode on impact and linger for months or even years when they can be accidentally detonated by the unsuspecting farmers or children.
He said it was crucial in reminding States of their priorities, and help focus their work on the real needs and challenges that existed.
The Minister of Defence expressed the hope that the critical role the convention was playing in ensuring peace especially in Sub Saharan Africa would deepen insights of experts at the conference and speed up efforts being made to universalise the convention in the Sub Region, so the impact of CMs would be a thing of the past.
Mr William Kwasi Aboah, Minister of the Interior stated that Ghana had always been at the fore front of the commitment to ban CMs and had demonstrated this through the drafting of a legislation to prohibit the use, manufacturing, stockpiling, and transfer of CMs including penal sanctions.
He said the conference was significant for the people of Ghana especially as the world would be focusing on Ghana once again as the country prepared for Election 2012.
Mr Kamil Kamaluddeen, Country Director, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Ghana, said removing the remnants of war was not only about safety but also about human and economic development.
He said UNDP had played an active role in the process to achieve the ban on CMs that caused unacceptable harm and continued to do so now and applauded the strong level of engagement that African countries had shown throughout the processes leading to a comprehensive ban on CMs, as well as opportunities to have both supported and participated in all previous regional meetings.
Ms Afi Yakubu, Executive Director of FOSDA, said the process to ban cluster bombs had come a long way since 2007 in Norway until the convention finally came into force in 2010.
She said Africa and Civil Society Organisations had played a major role to the success story and that 41 out of the 111 countries had joined the Convention on CMs in Sub Saharan Africa, and eight were yet to join from the continent.
She said one of the biggest priorities and challenges globally, was getting more countries to join the convention and was hopeful civil society would continue to drum the message for policy makers to take the necessary steps in ensuring the success of the convention across Africa and globally.**