Friday, November 19, 2010

Nuclear Issues: African Commission on Nuclear Energy Begins to Take Shape

Source: Institute for Security of Studies (ISS)

Noel Stott and Amelia Broodryk, Arms Management Programme, ISS Pretoria

The pan-African body responsible for ensuring that African States and States such as the USA, Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom comply with the Treaty of Pelindaba establishing Africa as a nuclear weapon-free zone, took a step closer to being created when the First Conference of Parties was held in Addis Ababa on 4 November 2010.

The Treaty of Pelindaba, which entered into force in July 2009, ensures that nuclear weapons are not developed, produced, tested, or otherwise acquired or stationed anywhere on the African continent or its associated islands. Under Article 12 (Mechanism for Compliance) the Parties agree to establish an African Commission on Nuclear Energy (AFCONE) in order to ensure compliance with these undertakings and to promote co-operation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

The First Conference of Parties was attended by AU Member States Parties to the Treaty of Pelindaba: Algeria, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, The Gambia, Kenya, Lesotho, Libya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In addition, representatives of countries not yet party were also present including Egypt, Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Ghana, Namibia, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Sudan and Uganda as well as nuclear weapon states.

Prior to the Conference, the 65th session of the United Nations General Assembly’s First Committee adopted by consensus a resolution on the Treaty of Pelindaba calling on all African States to ratify it and for the nuclear weapon states to sign and ratify the Protocols concerning them as soon as possible and for relevant states contemplated in Protocol III to the Treaty to take all necessary measures to ensure the speedy application of the Treaty to territories for which they are, de jure or de facto, internationally responsible and that lie within the limits of the geographical zone established in the Treaty.

Speaking on behalf of the United Kingdom and the United States, France, on 27 October noted that France and the United Kingdom have committed themselves not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against any African State party to the treaty and that the US has announced that it has began the process of ratification of the protocols annexed to the Treaty. India, although not a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and therefore not a recognised nuclear weapon state also conveyed its unambiguous assurance that it will respect the status of the African Nuclear weapon Free Zone.

In a related development, a Conference on Diego Garcia & Chagos held at Grande Riviere, Port Louis, Mauritius, from 30 October to 2 November 2010, resolved to ‘make a formal demand for UN inspections under the Pelindaba Treaty, as soon as the mechanism for doing so comes into force later this year’… ‘in the context of the struggle for the complete decolonization of the Republic of Mauritius, the dismantling of the British Indian Ocean Territories colony, and the re-unification of the country and for the closing down of the US military base on Diego Garcia’. Diego Garcia, which falls within the Zone, is currently under the control of the UK and leased to the US as a military base. The African Union, however, considers the islands to be part of Mauritius. While the airstrip on Diego Garcia played a central role in the war against Iraq and Afghanistan from 1991 to 2006, it is not known if the US has ever stored, or currently stores nuclear weapons on the Indian Ocean island.

According to the African Union’s Commissioner for Peace and Security, Ramtane Lamamra, the Treaty is part a wider strategy to implement the Common African Defence and Security Policy, as adopted by the Second Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of Head of States and Government, held in Sirte, Libya, on 28 February 2004 and is thus a key component of the overall peace and security architecture of the AU.

Participants endorsed a decision taken in Cairo in 1996 to establish the headquarters of AFCONE in South Africa. The Treaty makes provision for 12 Commissioners to be elected as members of the AFCONE. At the conference the following countries were elected: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Mauritius, Senegal, South Africa, Togo and Tunisia.

A further meeting will be held in within the next six months to decide on the structure and budget of AFCONE, as well as its programme of activities.