Aghan Daniel: Kenya failing over land mines treaty

The second review conference on the Mine Ban Treaty opened in Cartagena, Colombia, last Sunday. Conspicuously missing is Kenya's political leadership. To confirm her apathy, Kenya instead chose to send a junior diplomat for the very high-level talks. This despite Kenya having hosted the first review conference in Nairobi five years ago.

The review conference, held every five years during the lifetime of a treaty, is being attended by hundreds of representatives of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, some states not party, international organisations, UN agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross, Handicap International and the International Coalition to Ban Landmines.

This Review Conference aims at assessing challenges in the universalisation and full implementation of the Mine Ban Treaty, and taking stock of progress made since the First Review Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2004.

The 1997 treaty has been a landmark accomplishment. For the first time in hi story,'a group of governments and civil institutions joined together to ban a conventional weapon that had been used by virtually every fighting force in the world for decades.

Today, 156 nations are party to the treaty — including Af-ghanistan, Australia, Indonesia, Japan, all of Europe except Finland (Poland has signed but not yet ratified), all of sub-Saharan Africa except Somalia, almost half of the countries in the Middle East and North Africa (including Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait and Algeria), and the entire Western Hemisphere, except for the United States and Cuba.

Kenya's leaders absence at the talks means the country has missed an opportunity to show unflagging support for the campaign against the insiduous weapons.

At the end of the conference, Kenya will have missed an opportunity to reaffirm her political commitment to ban and prohibit the use of land mines. For starters, the Government of Kenya ratified the Mine Ban Treaty nearly nine years ago — January 23, 2001 — but has failed miserably to domesticate it hence making the treaty inoperational locally.

In the run up to the Cartagena Conference, a leader of my organisation, Handicap International, called both the Prime Minister's office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to confirm Kenya's inability to register for the conference despite earlier reports of Prime Minister Raila Odinga's attendance. As usual he was taken round and round with no concrete response.

Could it really be true that Kenya would tinker in making a political statement in one of the most inclusive and comprehensive treaties put together in the last 50 years? This is absurd.

And given the closed, hush-hush nature of Kenya's legislation process of the Mine Ban Treaty excluding almost everyone involved in the land mine issue, the real reasons remain unclear. Surely the administration has no intention of defending the homeland with antipersonnel land mines?

Kenya s position on land mines calls into question our country's non-expressed views on multilateralism, respect for international humanitarian law and disarmament. How can we, with total credibility, lead the region to display commitment to the ban on use, transfer and stockpiling of land mines and cluster munitions when we cannot even sit down with our neighbours to collectively give directions on what we are doing to rid the world of land mines?

This administration has seemed all too willing to put aside human rights in the service of political expediency. Its response to the entire process of domestication of the mine ban treaty is so far wishy-washy; its response to ratify the cluster munitions convention is shrouded in mystery and invisibility.

A shrinking number of countries — including China, Russia, India and Pakistan — have not joined the Mine Ban Treaty.

However, the majority of these countries are in fact complying with key treaty provisions such as no use, trade, or production of mines.

Myanmar and Russia are the only states using antipersonnel mines in recent years, along with non-state armed groups in about seven countries.

When will Kenya join the rest of the world in reaffirming her commitment to ban these insidious weapons of terror that have caused so much heartbreak and devastation?

Despite Kenya's lethargy, antipersonnel mines have been stigmatised in less than ten years, as an unacceptable worldwide, even for countries that remain outside of the treaty.

The author is the advocacy and campaigns officer, Handicap International, Kenya/Somalia programme, Nairobi.

Bookmark the permalink.