(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Landmine survivors welcome ban on cluster bombs

Landmine survivors and campaigners in Uganda have welcomed the approval of a new comprehensive treaty to ban cluster bombs.

"As people who have been on the forefront of this campaign, we see the approval of the treaty as a major breakthrough and we pray that countries stick to the treaty," Margaret Arach, the chairperson of the Uganda Landmine Survivors Association, told IRIN on 3 June.

On 30 May, after 10 days of intense negotiations at the Dublin Diplomatic Conference in Ireland, some 110 countries approved a treaty banning the usage, production or transfer of cluster bombs. However, countries such as the United States, Russia and China opposed the treaty saying the bombs were useful on the battlefield.

Arach said the bombs had killed and maimed many civilians and the ban was a "real" victory for humanity.

"Whoever is opposing the treaty is totally against the existence of the human race," she said. "Some of us lost our body parts to such deadly bombs and cannot regain them."

Cluster munitions or cluster bombs are air-dropped or ground-launched and eject a number of smaller sub-munitions (bomblets). The most common types are intended to kill enemy personnel and destroy vehicles.

The treaty establishes a deadline for the destruction of all existing stocks of the weapons, and has since been hailed by thousands of campaigners around the world within the Cluster Munitions Coalition (CMC), a network of civil society organisations.

The coalition says the treaty is as historical as the ban on anti-personnel landmines over a decade ago. It says cluster munitions were used in the northern Uganda war between the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces in Gulu.

However, the army spokesperson, Paddy Ankunda, denied that the army had used the bombs during the war, saying it was aware of their consequences. Ankunda said that the bombs being collected in northern Uganda were used by the LRA.

This, however, could not be confirmed but reports indicate the LRA had initially been better armed than the Ugandan army, sourcing many of its weapons from Sudan.

''Whoever is opposing the treaty is totally against the existence of the human race''

Piloya Monica, a victim of cluster bombs in northern Uganda and also chairperson of the Northern Uganda Landmine Survivors, said a number of people in northern Uganda were still vulnerable to the bombs in their villages of resettlement.

"There are cases of so many unexploded bombs in villages where people are returning. [The] government should live up to its commitment of clearing these areas so that people are safe," she said.

Monica added: "As victims in northern Uganda we are happy that our call is being taken seriously and we hope that there will be no [more] victims of such bombs in the future."

Campaigners say cluster munitions do not distinguish between military targets and civilians so the humanitarian impact can be extreme.

According to the CMC, 34 countries have produced more than 210 types of cluster munitions, while 14 states have used the weapons in at least 30 countries and territories.

Of the 76 countries that have stockpiles of cluster munitions, 13 are African countries, according to the Coalition.

Cluster bombs were first used in the Second World War and most of them were air-dropped, ground- or submarine-launched to release millions of bomblets. Cluster munitions are usually used to force suppression, destroy material and also block personnel movement.


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