Cluster Munition Ban Policy

Last updated: 15 September 2021


Non-signatory Eritrea has expressed interest in the convention’s humanitarian objectives, but has not taken any steps towards accession. It last participated in a meeting of the convention in 2015. Eritrea voted in favor of a key annual United Nations (UN) resolution promoting the convention in December 2020.

Eritrea has not produced cluster munitions and denies stockpiling them, but used cluster munitions during the 1998–2000 war with Ethiopia. There is evidence that cluster bombs have been used in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region in the first half of 2021, but the user and circumstances of use are not known.


The State of Eritrea has not acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Eritrea has acknowledged the convention’s humanitarian rationale, but has not taken any steps to join it.[1] Eritrea said in 2008 that as a country contaminated by cluster munition remnants, it understands the problems caused by these weapons and therefore supports their prohibition.[2]

Eritrea did not participate in the international meetings of the Oslo Process that created the Convention on Cluster Munitions, but attended the two African regional meetings, where it supported a comprehensive ban.[3]

Eritrea participated as an observer in several of the convention’s Meetings of States Parties until 2014 and attended the First Review Conference in 2015.[4] It has not participated in any of the convention’s meetings since then.

In December 2020, Eritrea voted in favor of a UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution that urges states outside the Convention on Cluster Munitions to “join as soon as possible.”[5] Eritrea has voted in favor of the annual UNGA resolution promoting the convention since it was first introduced in 2015.

Eritrea is a State Party to the Mine Ban Treaty. It is not party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW).

Production, transfer, and stockpiling

Eritrea stated in 2013 that it does not use or stockpile cluster munitions.[6] A government official said in 2010 that Eritrea has not produced cluster munitions and possesses no stocks.[7]

However, Eritrea reportedly inheritedChilean-manufactured CB-500 cluster bombs when it achieved independence from Ethiopia in 1991.[8] It also possesses Grad 122mm surface-to-surface rockets, but it is not known if these include versions with submunition payloads.[9]


Eritrea has used cluster munitions in the past. It is unclear if the Eritrean Air Force used cluster bombs in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region during the first half of 2021.

Media reports as well as accounts and images shared on social media indicate that several types of Soviet or Russian-made RBK-series cluster bombs may have been used in attacks on Samre and Gijet, southwest of the city of Mekelle, on 20–25 February 2021, and on Menji and Guyya near the town of Abi-Adi Tembien on 13 June 2021.[10] The air-delivered cluster munitions reportedly used include RBK-250 PTAB-2.5M and RBK-250-275 AO-1SCh bombs. RBK-250 ZAB-2.5 incendiary weapons may have also been used and deliver submunitions containing an incendiary payload similar in effect to white phosphorus.

The Eritrean Air Force possesses aircraft capable of delivering Soviet-made RBK-series cluster bombs. As of 31 July 2021, Eritrea’s Minister of Foreign Affairs has not responded to a request from Human Rights Watch (HRW) to confirm or deny the Eritrean National Defence Force’s use of cluster munitions in the outbreak of hostilities in Tigray in 2020 and 2021.[11]

Previous Use

Eritrean and Ethiopian forces both used cluster munitions during their 1998–2000 war.[12]

Eritrean aircraft attacked the Mekele airport in Ethiopia with cluster bombs in 1998.[13] In 2009, the Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission in The Hague awarded Ethiopia US$2.5 million “in respect of deaths and injuries, medical expenses, and property damage resulting from the dropping of cluster bombs in the vicinity of the Ayder School in Mekele.”[14]

Although Ethiopia has denied it, there is ample evidence that it also used cluster munitions during the war, to attack several parts of Eritrea.


[1] In 2010, Eritrea told States Parties that it supports the convention and sees benefits in joining. Statement of Eritrea, Convention on Cluster Munitions First Meeting of States Parties, Vientiane, 9 November 2010. Notes by the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC). In May 2013, a representative said that the ratification process had been delayed by other priorities. Statement of Eritrea, Lomé Regional Seminar on the Universalization of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, Lomé, Togo, 23 May 2013. In 2012, a government official said a committee assigned to study the convention would provide recommendations on accession. CMC meeting with Ghebremedhin-Mehari Tesfamichael, Finance and Administrative Officer, Eritrean Mission to the UN in Geneva, Geneva, 18 April 2012. Notes by the CMC.

[2] CMC, “Report on the Kampala Conference on the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” September 2008.

[3] For details on Eritrea’s policy and practice regarding cluster munitions through early 2009, see Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Landmine Action, Banning Cluster Munitions: Government Policy and Practice (Ottawa: Mines Action Canada, May 2009), p. 199.

[4] Eritrea did not attend the convention’s Meetings of States Parties in 2013 or 2016–2019. It participated in an intersessional meeting of the convention in 2012. Eritrea has attended regional workshops on the convention.

[5]Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” UNGA Resolution 75/62, 7 December 2020.

[6] Statement of Eritrea, Lomé Regional Seminar on the Universalization of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, Lomé, Togo, 23 May 2013; and interview with Filmon Mihretab Kifle, Director for Regional Organizations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in Lomé, 22 May 2013.

[7] CMC meeting with Elsa Haile, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, New York, 20 October 2010. Notes by the CMC.

[8] Rae McGrath, Cluster Bombs: The Military Effectiveness and Impact on Civilians of Cluster Munitions (London: Landmine Action, August 2000), p. 38.

[9] International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2011 (London: Routledge, 2011), p. 423.

[10] For an example of the claims, see, Hiwot, Kindeya G. (ProfKindeya), ‘‘These are the bombs that jets of Abiy Ahmed @AbiyAhmedAli are dropping in #Tigray against civilians everytime his forces lose battles. Some of these images seem to suggest the probable use of gas cannisters than ordinary bombs. #tigraygenocide #Tigraywillprevail @antonioguterres.’’ 21 June 2021, 06:32 UTC, Tweet; and Martin Plaut, “Situation Report EEPA HORN No. 168 – 14 June 2021,” 14 June 2021.

[11] Letter from Mary Wareham, Human Rights Watch to H.E. Osman Saleh, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Eritrea, 21 June 2021.

[12] The UN Mission in Eritrea and Ethiopia’s Mine Action Coordination Center (UNMEE MACC) reported that in 2007, unexploded PTAB 2.5 and BL755 submunitions were found in Eritrea. See, UNMEE MACC, “Annual Report 2008,” undated draft, p. 1, provided by email from Anthony Blythen, Programme Officer, UN Mine Action Service, 7 April 2009. Additionally, a UN team in the area of Melhadega in Eritrea identified and destroyed an unexploded M20G DPICM-type submunition of Greek origin in October 2004, but it is not known who used the weapon. See, UNMEE MACC, “Weekly Update,” Asmara, 4 October 2004, p. 4.

[13] Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission, “Partial Award—Central Front—Ethiopia’s Claim 2 between The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the State of Eritrea,” The Hague, 28 April 2004, p. 24.

[14] Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission, “Ethiopia’s Damages Claims Between The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia And The State of Eritrea,” The Hague, 17 August 2009.