Pelindaba Treaty

On November 24, 1961, as a consequence of the first French nuclear test in the dessert of Western Sahara, in the territory of today’s Algeria, the General Assembly appealed the United Nations Member States to stop these tests carried out in the densely populated territories of North Africa. Three years after, the African Heads of State and Government gathered at the Summit Conference of the African Unity (OAU) solemnly declared by means of an international treaty that they were ready to achieve a treaty prohibiting the production and the absolute control over nuclear weapons in their region. 

This proposal had not made any progress till the Cold War was over.It was since 1991 that South Africa, the African continent’s only country that had developed technological capacity for making nuclear weapons, became an integrant of the NPT, when real prospects for establishing a nuclear weapon free zone in Africa opened. The African Treaty bears the name of Pelindaba in honor of the South African nuclear plant that developed an important number of nuclear warheads and were dismantled. The fact that South Africa took such a decision of political character allowed the Pelindaba Treaty to have an end that had been expected for so many decades.

The African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty, also known as the Treaty of Pelindaba, establishes a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zonein Africa. The treaty was signed in 1996 and came into effect with the 28th ratification on 15 July 2009.

The Treaty prohibits the research, development, manufacture, stockpiling, acquisition, testing, possession, control or stationing of nuclear explosive devices in the territory of parties to the Treaty and the dumping of radioactive wastes in the African zone by Treaty parties. The Treaty also prohibits any attack against nuclear installations in the zone by Treaty parties and requires them to maintain the highest standards of physical protection of nuclear material, facilities and equipment, which are to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes. The Treaty requires all parties to apply full-scope International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards to all their peaceful nuclear activities. 

A mechanism to verify compliance, including the establishment of the African Commission on Nuclear Energy, has been established by the Treaty. Its office will be in South Africa. The Treaty affirms the right of each party to decide for itself whether to allow visits by foreign ships and aircraft to its ports and airfields, explicitly upholds the freedom of navigation on the high seas and does not affect rights to passage through territorial waters guaranteed by international law.

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