Cluster bombs conference on

Monday September 29 2008

By Paul Amoru


Diplomats from 40 African states are today meeting in Kampala to step up the anti- cluster bombs crusade and challenge their governments to sign the new international treaty banning cluster bombs.

President Museveni is expected to open the conference this morning at Imperial Royale Hotel. Uganda becomes the first African country to host a gathering of this nature. “We are privileged to be hosting such a high level meeting,� director of the government Media Centre Fred Opolot said on Friday.

Mr Opolot said Uganda has ratified several international instruments relating to human rights issues. “That is why we were selected to host this meeting,� he added. Participants at the meeting will witness Deminers from the Uganda Mine Action Centre demonstrate how they carry out their dangerous work.

The day’s activities will also include a video message to be delivered by the South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu to call for an end to the suffering caused by cluster munitions.                            
Cluster munitions (bombs) are large weapons deployed from the air and from the ground and release hundreds of smaller sub munitions.

At least 40 countries including Uganda have been affected by the use of cluster munitions. Mr Opolot said that cluster bombs have been a big problem in Sub-Saharan Africa. He said in Uganda, “Some (bombs) have been carelessly disposed and continue to cause unacceptable harm to civilians in Teso and the north.�

He blamed the Lords Resistance Army rebels for the mess but denied any government involvement. “The government cannot be that irresponsible,� Mr Opolot said, dismissing allegations that the Uganda People’s Defense Forces had used cluster bombs in the north as well.

The new treaty if signed will not only ban the use of cluster bombs but will help generate adequate resources to assist survivors and clear contaminated areas. Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda are among 107 states that adopted the Convention on cluster munitions in May this year.

Therefore, all states will be eligible to sign the treaty in Oslo on December 3, 2008 and must ratify it after signature. Cluster bombs were first used in the Second World War and most of them were air-dropped. The global stockpile is estimated at some four billion munitions, with around a quarter in U.S. hands.