African States against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas

From November 27-28, Handicap International is organizing a regional conference on the bombing of civilians in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. This conference will bring together 20 States, 10 African civil society organizations, and international NGOs with the goal to raise awareness of this vital challenge among African countries and to encourage them to take action on the world stage to protect civilians from the devastating impact of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. 

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Alma Al Osta, head of weapons advocacy at HI, at an awareness-raising seminar on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas in Geneva in early December. 
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What does this conference aim to achieve?

The goal of this conference is to raise awareness of the use of explosive weapons and the devastating humanitarian impact this has on local populations, and to share key information on this issue. HI hopes that these discussions will lead to the emergence of a group of African States who will be active in the development of a political declaration on ending the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Currently only two African States–Mozambique and Senegal–are involved in this diplomatic process.

Who is attending the conference?

HI is expecting 35 representatives of 20 African States–Angola, Botswana, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Congo, Cote D’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Liberia, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, Togo, Uganda, and Zambia–to attend. Five international NGOs and UN agencies are also expected to be there, along with the Foreign Minister of Mozambique.

What will be discussed at the conference?

  1. The disastrous impact on civilians of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas including the injuries and trauma, the destruction of infrastructure and homes, population displacement, and the like
  2. The actors who use explosive weapons and the situations in which they use them
  3. The various types of explosive weapons used such as mines, anti-personnel mines, missiles, grenades and so on
  4. The legal framework, policies and practices required to better control the use of these weapons in populated areas.

Why choose the African continent?

Many African countries were and are still the locus of armed conflicts, including Chad, South Sudan, Somalia, and Nigeria. They are among the worst affected by the use of explosive weapons and its impact on civilians. In addition, the African Union[1] has made the protection of civilians one of its top priorities. African States also place an emphasis on the case-management of victims, hence HI’s decision to organise this conference in Africa. Lastly, action by African States on the world stage could have a real impact on improving the protection of conflict-affected people. 

Africa has also experienced rapid urban growth in recent decades. These urban areas may one day be the scene of a conflict and the continent needs to consider the consequences of this, including the risk of explosive remnants of war in urban areas. At this conference, HI has set itself the task to raising the awareness of all actors able to take action against the use of explosive weapons.



[1] The Organization for African Unity (OAU) founded in 2002 aims at promoting democracy, human rights and investment on the African continent.