Nuclear Weapon Free Regions

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Africa became a nuclear-weapon-free zone in July 2009 when the Treaty of Pelindaba entered into force. The Treaty was the result of a protracted process dating back to the early 1960s when a nuclear-weaponfree zone was proposed as a response to French nuclear tests in the Sahara. There are currently no African states with nuclear weapons. South Africa did have a nuclear weapons programme and developed nuclear weapons, but the programme was dismantled in the early 1990s. South Africa is a unique case, being the only known country in the world to have voluntarily ended its nuclear programme after developing nuclear weapons. Several other African states are believed to have launched nuclear weapons programmes, but these were presumably ended before any nuclear weapons were produced.

Notwithstanding the African nuclear-weapon-free zone Treaty, Africa as a regional block has not, to date, been a significant actor in the international discourse addressing the elimination of nuclear weapons. Still, Africa could potentially play an important role in this debate, partly due to its demographic weight of 1 billion people and its voting block of 54 states in international bodies and partly due to its status as a region that has already banned nuclear weapons. Hence, if African states engage on an issue, they could play a significant role, as has been demonstrated through the processes of negotiating the Mine Ban Treaty and the Convention on Cluster Munitions.


ILPI roundtable discussion in Nairobi, December 2013
On 10-11 December, 2013, ILPI’s Nuclear Weapons Project organized its 5th regional roundtable meeting on nuclear weapons in Nairobi, Kenya. The meeting was organized in collaboration with the Africa Peace Forum (APFO) and closely coordinated with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). 

ILPI roundtable discussion in Lagos, November 2013
On 13-14 November, 2013, ILPI’s Nuclear Weapons Project (NWP) organized its 4th regional roundtable meeting on nuclear weapons, in Lagos, Nigeria, in collaboration with ICAN, as well as three Nigerian NGOs (Churches in Action for Peace and Development – CAPAD, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom – WILPF, and International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA).

ILPI roundtable discussion in Addis Ababa, June 2012
From 5 – 6 June 2012, International Law and Policy Institute (ILPI) convened a roundtable discussion in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in collaboration with the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), in order to discuss the potential role of African States and civil society in the efforts to prohibit nuclear weapons, building on their experiences in other campaigns and multilateral processes. 


An introduction to the issue of nuclear weapons in Africa
This article provides an overview of the issue of nuclear weapons and Africa, with particular emphasis on the process that led to the establishment of an African nuclear-weapon-free zone. The role of African states in international disarmament processes is discussed. So are relevant bodies and groupings with a bearing on disarmament policies that African states participate in. A selection of African states’ experiences and positions with regards to nuclear weapons are also explored. The article ends with an outline of possible future prospects of African states’ engagement for a world free of nuclear weapons.


Treaty of Pelindaba
The African Nuclear-weapon-free zone treaty or the treaty of Pelindaba was opened for signature on 11 April 1996. The treaty came into force on 15 July 2009 and has been ratified by 30 of 51 signatory states. Treaty of Pelindaba (treaty …