Monday, August 30, 2010

ISS TODAY: 30 Aug 2010: Major Boost for Africa’s Quest to be Nuclear Weapon Free

Amelia Broodryk, Researcher and Noel Stott, Senior Research Fellow, WMD Project, Arms Management Programme, ISS Pretoria

In a great show of support for Africa’s Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Pelindaba), Russian Federation President, Dmitry Medvedev has submitted two protocols attached to the Treaty of Pelindaba to the lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia (parliament or Duma) for ratification.

This follows the Treaty’s entry-into-force in July 2009, when Burundi became the 28th African States Party, and the announcement by the United States of America at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in May 2010 that it would submit the protocols to its Senate for ratification.

The Treaty of Pelindaba seeks to ensure that nuclear weapons are not developed, produced, tested, or otherwise acquired or stationed anywhere on the African continent or its associated islands. While enhancing both regional and global peace and security, it also provides for the promotion of co-operation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy on the African continent.

As of 1 August 2010, all 53 African states, as well as the territory known as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, have signed the Treaty, and 29 countries have deposited their instruments of ratification with the African Union Commission (the Treaty Depository) - Tunisia having ratified in October 2009.

Like other Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (NWFZ) treaties, attached to the Treaty of Pelindaba are three Protocols for the five Nuclear Weapons States (NWS) and other relevant non-state parties to sign and ratify. The NWS are the United Kingdom, France, China, Russia and the United States, while relevant ‘non-state parties’ refer to France and Spain who are de jure or de facto in control of territories situated within the zone.

Protocol I calls on NWS not to use or threaten to use a nuclear weapon against any Party to the Treaty and against any territory within the zone. It has been signed by all the NWS and ratified by France, China and the UK. Protocol II calls on the NWS not to participate or assist in or encourage the testing of a nuclear explosive device on the continent. It has been signed by all the NWS and has, so far, been ratified by France, China and the UK. Protocol III calls upon France and Spain to apply the principles of the Treaty to the territories under their control. Since France and Spain possess islands within the African NWFZ, Protocol III is open for signature by these countries. France signed and ratified the Protocol in 1997, but Spain (which is a non-nuclear weapons state party to the NPT) has not done so. According to Spain, three territories controlled by the country, the Canary Islands, Ceuta, and Melilla (the latter two being coastal enclaves in Morocco) are an integral part of the European Union. Therefore, Spain insists that these three territories should not be included within the African NWFZ. Spain has also argued that the Protocol does not contain any non-proliferation or disarmament provisions that Spain has not already signed on to. Even though Spain cites its adherence to European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, which in its view contain provisions that go considerably beyond those contained in the Treaty of Pelindaba, this should not preclude them from adhering to the Treaty of Pelindaba. By adhering to the Protocols, these states would commit themselves to respecting the status of the zone.

Once Russia has ratified, it will provide a legally binding negative security guarantee that it will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against any African state and that it will not test nuclear weapons on the entire African continent as well as the following islands: Agalega Island, Bassas da India, Canary Islands, Cape Verde, Cardagos Carajos Shoals, Chagos Archipelago - Diego Garcia, Comoros, Europa, Juan de Nova, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mayotte, Prince Edward & Marion Islands, Sao Tome and Principe, Reunion, Rodrigues Island, Seychelles, Tromelin Island, and Zanzibar & Pemba Islands.

Russia signed both Protocol I and Protocol II in November 1996 relatively soon after the Treaty was opened for signature on 11 April 1996 in Cairo, Egypt. However, on signing, the Federation made it clear that it would “not use nuclear weapons against a State which is a party to the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty excluding [emphasis added] the cases of invasion or any other armed attack on the Russian Federation, its territory, its armed forces or other troops, its allies or a State towards which it has a security commitment, carried out or sustained by a non-nuclear-weapons State party to the Treaty in association or alliance with a nuclear-weapon State”.

In addition and importantly, Russia could not regard itself as bound by the obligations under Protocol I with respect of the Chagos archipelago islands (Diego Garcia) as they do not meet the requirements put forward by the Treaty for nuclear-weapon-free territories. In the past, both the UK and the US have argued that Diego Garcia cannot be included in the geographical area of the Treaty of Pelindaba as it is a British possession used by the United States as a major military base. The US lease of Diego Garcia runs until 2016. However, UN resolutions 1514 and 2066 support Mauritius’ claims to these islands.

The map annexed to the Treaty (Annex I), explicitly includes the Chagos Archipelago although with a note in reference to the long-standing diplomatic dispute between the UK and Mauritius. The African Union has also issued a resolution urging the UK Government "to immediately enter into direct and constructive dialogue with Mauritius so as to enable the early return of the sovereignty of Mauritius." While the airstrip on Diego Garcia played a central role in the war against Iraq and Afghanistan from 1991 to 2006, and by the United Nations during its military intervention in Somalia in 1992, it is not known if the US has ever stored nuclear weapons on the Indian Ocean island. It now provides oil storage tanks and shelters for US naval supplies, accommodates surveillance planes, jet fighters and military transport aircraft, and acts as a staging area for ground troops.

If, and when the US Senate ratifies these Protocols, it will be interesting to see if they recognise that their undertaking also applies to their activities on the island of Diego Garcia or whether they will include a reservation or declarative interpretation. If the latter, Russia will also not feel legally bound by its obligations under Protocol I with respect of the atoll.

Under Article 12 (Mechanism for compliance) and after entry-into-force, the Parties agree to establish an African Commission on Nuclear Energy (AFCONE) in order to ensure compliance with their undertakings. According to the Treaty, a Conference of all Parties to the Treaty shall be convened by the Depositary (that is, the African Union) as soon as possible after the entry into force of the Treaty. The Cairo Declaration, which was adopted on the occasion of the signing of the Treaty of Pelindaba, on 11 April 1996, clearly states that the first session of the Conference of States Parties to the Treaty shall be held not later than one year after its entry into force, and also endorsed the establishment of the headquarters of the African Commission on Nuclear Energy in South Africa [emphasis added]. The African Union is yet to host the Conference.

Foot Notes:

Russia backs African nuclear treaty. United Press International, 24 August 2010.

Statement by Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton to the 2010 Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, General Debate, New York, 3 May 2010.

See for an interview with the Mauritian High Commissioner to the UK.

Rachael Bradley, Diego Garcia - Britain in the Dock, IBRU Boundary and Security Bulletin, Spring 1999.

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