- At a historic conference in Oslo today, more than 100 countries are signing a convention that will ban cluster bombs that are known to cause great damage on civilians. More than 30 African countries are among them.
Every country in East Africa, all Western African countries except The Gambia and the large majority of Southern African and the Indian Ocean countries are signing the convention. Only in North Africa and the Horn of Africa, governments will not ban the devastating weapon. Morocco has however indicated a possibility of signing the convention later.
Among the good news is that several African countries having cluster munitions stockpiles will now be obliged to destroy these. This includes Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda and Guinea.
There is some confusion on whether Sudan also will sign the convention and thus destroy its large cluster bomb stocks. Sudan is one of the few African countries where cluster bombs have been used, with devastating results for the civilian population, and one of the few countries in active conflict where the munitions may be banned.
According to information gathered by the Cluster Munitions Coalition (CMC), a global alliance of more than 200 non-governmental organisations fighting for the ban, there is a large number of African countries that have been affected by cluster bombs.
The first use of cluster bombs in Africa was during the 1975-88 peak of the armed conflict in Western Sahara, when occupying Moroccan troops made large use of cluster bombs to fight the liberation movement Polisario, but also used the ammunition against civilian Saharawi populations. Also landmines were widely used in that conflict.
The second time cluster munitions was used in Africa was in Chad, during the Libyan invasion and annexation of Chad's northern Aouzou Strip. In the final phase of this war, the so-called Toyota War, French bombers aided Chadian troops to route out the Libyans using cluster bombs. Also the Libyan army made use of these arms during the 1986-87 war operations.
In the 1990s, the feared cluster ammunition for the first time was used in more densely populated tracts of Africa. From 1996 to 1999, the government of Sudan dropped large quantities of cluster bombs over the southern part of the country, some of the ammunition targeting the southern rebels, but other also directly targeting civilians. Many unexploded bomblets are still not cleared.
The next documented use of cluster bombs in Africa was in 1997 in Sierra Leone. Nigerian ECOMOG peacekeepers used Beluga bombs on the eastern town of Kenema to oust the brutal RUF rebels. Unexploded cluster bomblets from that attack are still found in Kenema, maiming civilians.
The last use of cluster bombs in Africa was during the Ethiopian-Eritrean border conflict, starting in 1998. Among the most profiled attacks where cluster munitions was used was Ethiopia's massive attack on the Asmara Airport and Eritrea's devastating attack on Mekele Airport.
While cluster bombs have not been used for ten years in Africa, they are still stockpiled in 14 African countries. This includes most of North Africa, with Morocco, Algeria, Libya and Egypt having major stocks of this ammunition.
In sub-Saharan Africa, mostly countries experiencing armed conflict or having a recent conflict history are in possession of cluster ammunition. This includes Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda and Angola. Somewhat more surprisingly, also South Africa, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Guinea and even Guinea-Bissau have cluster bomb stocks.
Economic consequences of the cluster bomb ban are only to be noted in two African countries. Only Egypt and South Africa have been involved in the production of the now banned ammunition. While South Africa is now not longer a producer and pledges to destroy its cluster bomb stocks, Egypt is not a signatory and may continue producing the now banned munitions.
The countries reported to sign up to the convention are Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda and Zambia. Sudan's and Morocco's possible signature are still unconfirmed.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.