By Rohey Jadama
A stakeholders’ workshop on the convention on cluster munitions was held on Thursday 14th August, 2014 at NaNa conference hall. The conference brought together law makers, security personnel, ministry of Justice, officials and civil society.
In his opening statement, Mr. Yusupha Dibba, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Defence, said this convention, as a global effect in limiting, monitoring and preventing stockpiles of dangerous unexploded ammunitions, is very important to security and safety especially in rural communities.
Mr. Dibba said it is therefore urgent to take control of stockpiling and to discourage the spread of munitions and other related small arms and light weapons. He said he believes that all signatories to the convention are aware of the dangers and are committed to getting rid-off the condemned stocks of ammunitions that would bring more havoc than good when they are stored in dangerous areas inhabited by people.
“The convention on cluster munitions is therefore a regulatory measure prohibiting use, productions and transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions wherever they are located. It is also the task of ECOWAS as a regional body to complement the efforts of the cluster munitions convention when it tries to prevent the proliferation of small arms and light weapons,” said PS Dibba.
The Defence PS said the Gambia has recognized the convention on cluster munitions and also looks at the humanitarian consequences and unacceptable harm to civilians caused by these weapons and explosives. He said the government’s contribution to this endeavor is amply demonstrated by their participation in all sub-regional and regional stakeholders meeting and conferences all over the world.
“Additionally, we have signed the convention and would be working towards its ratification in due course,” said PS Dibba.
For her part, Mrs. Pamela Cole, the Coordinator of the West African Network for Peace Building (WANEP), said peace and peace-building have always been the business of WANEP and the participants present at the meeting. She said a conference on the ratification and implementation of the instruments in question should come as no surprise to them as peace loving people.
She said the Gambia continues to enjoy peace and stability, in spite of raging wars and violent conflicts around. “In light of this it is crucial that we continue to monitor and engage in preventive measures for sustainable peace in the Gambia”, said the WANEP Coordinator.
She noted that over the years the government of the Gambia together with other stakeholders has directly and actively participated in all the processes leading up to the Mine Ban Treaty, ECOWAS Small Arms and Light Weapons Convention and Cluster Munitions Convention.
“Small arms, cluster munitions and land mines are weapons that have brought about untold suffering to millions of ordinary civilians especially women and children around the world. Vast farm lands have been abandoned and made bare as a result of their destructive and inaccurate nature. As a result, poverty becomes apparent as livelihood is destroyed. Combatants, artillery, tanks are usually targeted in such operations, unfortunately 40% of these weapons that drop to the ground fail to explode on impact thereby becoming potential danger to civilians long after the cessation of war,” said Ms. Cole.
The WANEP Coordinator noted that it is a fact that the Gambia is not a producer, a user or stockpiler of these dangerous weapons, nonetheless it is important that the nation stands in solidarity with countries and victims of these deadly weapons that have to live throughout the scourge and remnants of war. Furthermore, she added, the ratification of the convention will also serve as a preventive measure as well as a form of deterrent.
“You the policy makers and those that influence policies in this room: those representing the various ministries, (Defence, Interior, Justice, Foreign Affairs) the parliamentarians and security services, I am appealing directly to you. Today is another day of opportunity that you cannot afford to slip through your fingers. Lend your voices to this pertinent cause, heed the clarion call, and unburden your conscience; stand up to history and to future generation,” appealed the WANEP Coordinator.
She called on them to ratify and implement the conventions.