West Africa ready to ban nuclear weapons
September 23, 2014
From September 7 to 15, ICAN campaigners organised a tour in 5 countries in West Africa: Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Senegal. The overall goal was to meet with governments, NGOs, international organizations, and media to raise awareness about the humanitarian initiative on nuclear weapons and promote a ban treaty as the next step towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons.
With many humanitarian challenges in this region, including the current Ebola outbreak, one might expect nuclear weapons to take a backseat in national discourse. “On the contrary, the people we met are aware of the disaster that the use of nuclear weapons would bring to Africa”, said Arielle Denis, ICAN Campaign Director for Europe and Africa. “Many states are already taking part in the humanitarian initiative and now we feel that they are ready to strengthen this commitment, particularly with the strong support of civil society.”
Indeed, in West Africa there is a strong commitment to disarmament for humanitarian purposes. The 15 ECOWAS member states succeeded in implementing the first convention on small arms, and national and regional commissions are monitoring the implementation with governments, international organizations and NGO’s. Many of these stakeholders are receptive to the humanitarian approach and showed understanding and support for the prohibition of nuclear weapons.
West African states also played an important role in the negotiations for the landmines and cluster munitions treaties, as well as the ATT. ICAN regional campaigners want to build on this in encouraging a strong commitment for a ban on nuclear weapons, and if possible a united ECOWS voice. “What Africa did for landmines and cluster munitions, they can do for nuclear weapons! ” says Samir Abi from Visions Solidaires-Togo. Abi is particularly adamant for his country, Togo, to take the lead in the region.
All States declared their will to participate in the Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in Vienna on December 8-9. The widespread interest in promoting a nuclear weapons ban was reflected in the declaration of the Senegalese Minister of Foreign Affairs H.E. Mankeur Ndiaye, on June 10th at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. Ndiaye urged “States that have not yet done so to amplify the momentum of the vast movement that is shaping up so that eventually, through an international convention, nuclear weapons are totally banned.”
This tour has also been successful in inspiring new civil society partners, especially human rights and development organizations who have expressed their will to take action on September 26th. These partners seek raise awareness on this issue and put the pressure on their governments to insure their commitment and courage to act concretely for a treaty banning nuclear weapons.
For more information on ICAN’s work in Africa, take a look at our French-language brochure, Interdire Les Armes Nucléaires