By Tabora Bojang
The 15th regional meeting of the organisation for the prohibition of chemical weapons for Africa (OPCW) is currently underway in Banjul at a local hotel in Kololi.
The three-day national authority convergence for the Africa is hosted by the Gambia National Authority of the OPCW under the auspices of the ministry of defence, and has been joined by delegates from over 50 African countries being state parties of the chemical weapons convention which entered into force in 1997.
The meeting also coincides with the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the chemical weapons convention (CWC).
The OPCW, with a membership of 192 states is the implementation body of the chemical weapons convention CWC and its member states share collective goal of preventing chemistry from ever again being used for warfare, thereby strengthening international security and a world free of chemical weapons.
The deputy permanent secretary Ministry of Defence Mr. Assan Tangara, also the chairperson of the Gambia National Authority of the OPCW, said the Gambia government has been a long standing partner to OPCW in its effort in the implementation of the provisions of the CWC to achieve effective and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control, including the prohibition and elimination of all types of weapons of mass destruction.
He reaffirmed the Government of the Gambia’s commitment to the CWC to create a world free of chemical weapons. “We recognise the political, economic and security benefits of becoming a state party to the convention and desire for increased security, peace and stability and the political will is there to participate fully in the global community,” he said.
He added: “The Gambia have not recorded the presence and use of any schedule chemical under the CWC and will double its effort in supporting the OPCW in their efforts in combating the use of chemical weapons in order to achieve a world free of chemical weapons, and a world in which cooperation in the peaceful use of chemistry is fostered.”
Mr. Hamza Khelif, Director of international cooperation and assistance Division, OPCW said Africa is key for OPCW with almost all African states being parties to the convention and have great significance for the effectiveness of the CWC.
According to him the technical secretariat continues to recognise the importance of the regional meeting which serves as a very useful opportunity for the national authorities to discuss exchange experiences and to promote regional cooperation.
Momar Diop the permanent representative of Senegal to the OPCW noted that over 90% of declared chemical weapons has been destroyed and comprehensive inspection procedures have been tested and developed, despite there still exist challenges and treats to the full implementation of the convention, citing the consistent rise of science and technology with the ability to of inventing chemical weapons.
For his part Mr. Enrique Ochoa expert of UN Security Council Resolution 1540 Committee, stated that potentially devastating effects of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons proliferating to non-state actors and possibly terrorists could have catastrophic humanitarian, economic and political consequences.