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Report on the bill related to the ratification by the Republic of Burundi of the African Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Pelindaba) signed on April 11, 1996

I. Introduction

On June 9, 2009, members of the Standing Committee on Political, Diplomatic, Defense and Security issues met in order to analyze the bill mentioned above.

The bill under analysis comprises the following elements:

• The bill of ratification referred to;

• Its preamble;

• The instrument of ratification;

• The African Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Pelindaba)

• The bill as adopted by the National Assembly;

• Amendments formulated by the National Assembly.

The session was marked by the presence of the Minister in charge of National Defense and Veterans who had represented the Government. He presented the bill to members of the Committee and enlightened them on the most important aspects of that Bill.

The present report comprises the following points:

1. The introduction;

2. The importance of the Treaty;

3. The content of the Treaty;

4. Questions put to the representative of the Government as well as answers which have been provided;

5. The conclusion

Let’s mention that no amendment was formulated neither by the Committee referred to, nor by any other Committee. However, the Committee adopted the amendments formulated by the National Assembly as its own.

II. The importance of the Treaty

The importance of the Treaty lies first in the implementation of the Resolution 3472B of December 11, 1975 of the General Assembly of the United Nations considering that zones free from nuclear weapons constitute one of the effective means of banning the proliferation of nuclear weapons. By signing and ratifying that Treaty, Burundi, following the example of other African States, contributes to the strengthening of the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, to the promotion of the peaceful use of atomic energy and, subsequently, to favor regional and international peace and security.

The importance of the Treaty lies next in its originality in comparison with other agreements of the same type:

• Contrary to other Treaties related to the same matter, that Treaty uses the group word “nuclear explosive system” rather than “nuclear weapon”. That phrase covers “any nuclear weapon or any explosive system capable of producing nuclear energy”.

• Each member State is free to decide to authorize or not the transit of nuclear weapons or operation via its territory;

• A special clause forbids the pouring out of radioactive waste on the territory of member States.

• By that Treaty, member States commit themselves to really implement the provisions of the Agreement of Bamako related to the banning of importing dangerous waste in Africa and the control of their cross-border movements given that they are applicable to radioactive waste.

• The coming into force of the Treaty of Pelindaba which institutes a zone free from nuclear weapons in Africa would enable States of the continent to face strategic, security, economic and environmental challenges of the nuclear proliferation.

The importance of the Treaty lies finally in the hope that it arouses within the civil society, especially within churches.

In this connection, Jonathan Frerichs, responsible for activities of the ecumenical Council of Churches for the nuclear disarmament, notes the commitment of world religions towards a common security which results in an action of Governments so that the latter keep their promise of relieving the world of nuclear weapons. The same author asserts that for Churches, nuclear menace is getting away a bit more in 2009. In fact, he explains, Governments having as objective a common security will reach a historical step this year. The number of countries protected by zones free from nuclear weapons should go up to 110, whereas there are 56 today.

III. The content of the Treaty

In its article 1, the Treaty specifies what we understand by “zone free from nuclear weapons in Africa”. That provision defines also main terms used by the Treaty namely: territory, system, nuclear explosives, the nuclear stationing and installations.

The article 2 of the Treaty determines the application field of that Agreement, that is to say the territory which is located in the interior of the above-mentioned zone as it is indicated on the map which is to be found in the enclosure 1 of the Treaty. However, the latter is without prejudice of rights of each State related to the liberty of navigation and exercise of those rights, and brings no breach.

Throughout articles 3 up to 12, member States to the Treaty commit themselves to:

• stop finalizing, manufacturing and acquiring or possessing nuclear explosive systems (art.3);

• ban the stationing of nuclear systems ( art. 4);

• ban the testing of nuclear explosive systems (art. 5);

• declare, dismantle, destruct or convert nuclear explosive systems and installations which enable their manufacture (art.6);

• ban the pouring out of radioactive waste (art.7);

• promote peaceful nuclear activities and check their peaceful usage (art. 8 and 9);

• protect physically nuclear materials and installations (art. 10);

• ban armed attacks against nuclear installations (art. 11);

• watch over the respect of commitments via the African Committee for Atomic Energy (art. 12)

Articles 13 to 15 deal with reports and exchanges of information, the conference of parties and the interpretation of the Treaty. For all those issues, the African Committee for Nuclear Energy which was set by the Treaty constitutes a central organ for their coordination.

Article 16 states that the Treaty cannot be a subject matter of reservations whereas article 17 specifies that the Agreement has a permanent contract; Articles 18 up to 20 are classical provisions. They are respectively related to the signature, ratification and implementation of the Treaty (art.18); amendments of the Treaty (19), right to the withdrawal of the Treaty (art. 20). Article 21 talks about functions of the depositary o the Treaty. Finally, article 22 determines the statute of the appendixes to the Treaty. Those appendixes are an integral part of the Treaty and this one is applied to them.

The first of the appendixes deals with the map of the zone free from nuclear weapons in Africa. The second is related to guarantees of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

It is worth mentioning that the Treaty is followed by three protocols of application.

IV. Questions put to the representative of the Government and given answers

Q 1. What is the state of Ratification of the Treaty by African member States and what are the consequences for a State which would not ratify it? To that question, the Minister answered that up to that day, 50 African States have already signed the Treaty, and 26 others have already adhered whereas 27 States have already ratified it. He also indicated that by the time the International Community has just reduced nuclear weapons, a country which would not ratify that Treaty would not only abstain from the advantages which are linked to it, but also it would isolate itself in an Africa which is evolving.

Q 2. The Treaty of Pelindaba contributes to the promotion of cooperation in the domain of peaceful uses of nuclear energy. How will Burundi take the advantage of that cooperation?

According to the Minister, Burundi, like other parties to the Treaty of Pelindaba is encouraged to have recourse to the program of assistance offered by the International Atomic Energy Agency in accordance with the article 8, point 3. He also specified that the domains of assistance are security, environment and the socio-economic sector.

In addition, the article specifies that States are encouraged to strengthen cooperation pursuant to the regional cooperation Agreement for Africa on research, development and training in the domain of science and nuclear technology (AFRA). After having fixed obvious objectives in the domain of nuclear energy, Burundi will formulate a request to the International Atomic Energy Agency to benefit from its assistance.

Q 3. A special clause of the Treaty on the zone free from nuclear weapons in Africa bans the pouring out of radioactive waste on the territory of member States. What does Burundi plan as measures of surveillance to protect itself against those radioactive wastes?

As answer to that question, the Minister indicated that as our country has adhered to the International Atomic Energy Agency, it can request that organization to support the training of Burundian staff in matters of detection of any element which may be considered as radioactive waste. Burundi will also have to provide for a structure playing the role of national authority in the domain of an effective application of that Treaty.

Q 4. If we consider the content of the article 8, point 3 as it is highlighted in previous lines; does Burundi consider strengthening cooperation with the AFRA? For what purpose?

The Minister answered that indeed, with the ratification of that Treaty, Burundi will take that opportunity of cooperation with AFRA. As for the objective, our country will gain more in the domains of research and science (especially in radiology). Moreover, as it suffers from an insufficiency in energetic material, Burundi will resort to nuclear energy, thanks to that cooperation and the support of its partners for development.

Q 5. In its preamble, member States to the current Treaty committed themselves to protect the environment against any pollution by radioactive wastes and other radioactive materials. What are the efficient and constraining measures of management of radioactive wastes that Burundi intends to set up so that our territory should not be victim of that situation which is dangerous for the environment in general and the life populations in particular?

To that question, the Minister came back to the answer that he had given before answering the 3rd question for the two questions tally. However, he added that the most important measure is to refuse that wastes of any nature should be poured in our country, so as to avoid the risk that there should be radioactive elements on our territory.

Q 6. Burundi has already ratified at least 3 bills related to the nuclear namely: 1. The bill related to the International Agreement for the repression of acts of nuclear terrorism;

2. The bill related to the Treaty of total banning of nuclear tests signed in New York on September 24, 1996. 3. The bill related to the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

How far is the state of their implementation?

For the two first texts, i.e. the International Agreement for the repression of acts of nuclear terrorism and the Treaty of total banning of nuclear tests, the Minister answered that our country is at disposal of the International Community in order to cooperate with it so as to circumvent the misdeeds of the nucleus or terrorism and ask for its help if needs be. He went on explaining that by ratifying the Treaty, Burundi recognized the danger that those acts of terrorism and nuclear tests can cause, to such an extent that the concerned ministries should be ready to take measures liable to fend off that danger.

As for the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Burundi has already benefited from assistance in the domain of training Burundian cadres throughout courses, workshops and seminars organized by the Agency. In that framework, Burundi is very advanced because of being in partnership with the Agency, every year, we organize notably training seminars.

Q 7. Sometimes, that kind of agreement is imposed to developing countries. In case there should be deposits of Uranium in Burundi, shouldn’t our country be compelled to renounce its extraction?

According to the Minister, the Treaty does not ban the extraction of Uranium for developing sake. What it actually bans is to use it, to exploit or else sell it to countries which exploit it or use it for non-peaceful ends.

V. Conclusion

Throughout the importance it represents, the ratification of the Treaty of Pelindaba on zone free from nuclear weapons in Africa testifies not only the commitment of Burundi to solidarity and collective regional and international security vis-à-vis African States and those of the world, but also should constitute a preventive act in the fight against the eventuality of a presence of nuclear systems on our territory.

So, the Standing Committee in charge of Political, Diplomatic, Defense and Security issues requests the plenary assembly to adopt this bill as presented by the National Assembly.

For the Standing Committee in charge of Political, Diplomatic, Defense and Security issues

Senator Laurent Nicimbeshe

Parliamentary Journal
Senate bulletin


© 2009 Burundi Senate- All rights reserved
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