Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Securing Africa's moral authority toward a world free of nuclear weapons

African political commentator and poet Mukoma Wa Ngugi surfaces some interesting points in his July 16, 2007 piece on Znet, “Africa and Nuclear Weapons.”

Recalling the anxieties of the Cold War and emphasizing a nuclear dimension in contemporary international politics, Ngugi lauds the Treaty of Pelindaba which establishes the African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone:

“Today the question is whether the continent will become the theater of a nuclear dance between two predator nations - a growing and hungry China and the ever expansionist United States. It is therefore a great relief that Africa has arguably the most advanced non-proliferation treaty: the African Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty (ANWFZ) also known as the Treaty of Pelindaba which came into effect in 1996. According to the African Union, 22 countries have thus far ratified it.”

22 ratifications is still short of the 28 needed to bring the Treaty into force, twelve years and five days after it was opened for signature in Cairo. The African Union (AU) website now lists 23 ratifications – Gabon apparently slipped their instrument of ratification last Thursday (probably after Ngugi’s piece had already been submitted). Why have the other 20 African states acknowledge by the AU not yet ratified Pelindaba? Ngugi argues that they should:
“The atomic bomb that was dropped on Japan, was ironically enriched with uranium from what was then the Belgium Congo, and today, most nuclear weapons have uranium from an independent African state making us complicit in future atrocities. But by the same token, Africa through the ANWFZ treaty shows it can be a moral leader.”
Africa’s leadership on this issue is important for material as well as moral reasons, as the famous “16 words” from President Bush’s January 28, 2003 State of the Union Address suggest:

“The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

In a globalizing world, effectively verified nonproliferation is an increasingly communal enterprise – lots of people in lots of places matter more and more, which increases the responsibility of people everywhere to think globally and act locally to prevent nuclear proliferation. Ngugi surfaces the importance of this moral obligation for Africa:

“Uranium producing countries such as Namibia have not ratified the ANWFZ. This means that some African countries even though not developing nuclear weapons are aiding other nations, mostly Western, produce them – something the ANWFZ treaty forbids.”
The African states listed by the AU as not yet having ratified the African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone are: Angola*, Benin, Burundi*, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad*, Comoros*, Congo*, Djibouti, the Democratic Republic of the Congo*, Egypt*, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana*, Guinea-Bissau*, Liberia*, Malawi*, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, the Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia**, Sao Tome & Principe*, Sudan, Tunisia, Uganda, and Zambia. The states with * after their names have also not ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT); Somalia has two because it hasn’t even signed the CTBT. According to the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization, the CTBTO, six other African states have also not signed the CTBT: the Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Mauritius, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe.

Perhaps it is time for the African Union, perhaps in partnership with the Organization for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin American and the Caribbean and other relevant regional organizations, to consider a concerted push for Africa-wide adherence to these crucial agreements to secure Africa’s moral authority to play a stronger leadership role toward a world free of nuclear weapons.

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