January 22 marks a key milestone towards achieving peace in our lifetime. The protracted process of securing consensus, establishing evidence, and creating a binding instrument took decades of effort from development, government, and civil society sectors. These efforts cumulated into the United Nations General Assembly resolution 71/258 which prohibits nuclear weapons. As a legally binding instrument, it actively seeks to mitigate and prevent the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons.
Botswana, The Gambia, Lesotho, Namibia and South Africa are the only African countries to have ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). Understandably many African nations do not have Nuclear capabilities, but they are prone to the negative impacts of nuclear weapons. In retrospect: why then, would a 54-member regional bloc decide not to accelerate and influence the ratification of the TPNW?
The recent elections in Burundi, Tanzania, Central African Republic and Uganda show how African leaders prefer having all options available to them. Whether is military force, internet shutdowns, opposition oppression, or restricting civic space: there is a hunger for power that blinds them of the very forces they or their predecessors fought against under colonialism. Their hunger for authoritarian rule and human rights violations impunity leaves open an option for nuclear capabilities – whether outsourced or built-in country where possible.
Nuclear Disarmament should be part of demilitarization efforts. The trade, research and climate related destruction from its production and use should have no merit in an era of the Decade of Action. History has taught us that human rights are compromised when anyone that yields the power to deploy or develop nuclear weapons – in principle and practice. Commemorating 75 years since the Universal Declaration on Human Rights should no longer be a talking point or reason for reflection. It should instill the kind of commitment that links the TPNW with national, regional, and global development agendas; tracking progress, ensuring repercussions where needed and keeping our people and planet safe.