EDITORIAL | Let’s put the guns to silence before…

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A fundamental affirmation of the OAU/AU 50th Anniversary Solemn Declaration, adopted by the African Union Heads of State and Government on May 25, 2013, was achieving “a conflict-free Africa”.

 

Weapons being burnt during the official launch of the Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (DDRR) process in Muramvya, Burundi.  Image Credit: Africa Renewal

 

Correspondingly, realizing “A peaceful and secure Africa” is number four of the seven aspirations of AU`s Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want – the strategic framework for transforming Africa into the global powerhouse of the future. The major priorities of this key aspiration are achieving a stable and peaceful Africa through strengthening governance, accountability and transparency, as a foundation for a peaceful continent.

Despite Africa`s immense potential for economic growth and development, decades of inter-state and intra-state conflicts pervading the continent have rendered many African states incapable of achieving any tangible progress. At the heart of all African conflicts is the illegal proliferation of Small and Light Weapons (SALWs), notably the gun. Collectively, these series of armed conflicts which include terrorism, transnational crimes, civil wars, and communal conflicts, constitute the greatest impediment to achieving “An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa” as enshrined in Agenda 2063.

According to a 2017 study by Oxfam, titled: “The Human Cost of Uncontrolled Arms in Africa,” 500,000 Africans die while millions others get displaced or abused as a result of armed conflicts,  every year. The study provided a clear evidence of the human cost of uncontrolled arms: injuries and fatalities, internally displaced people (IDPs), sexual violence, refugees, amongst others, across seven African countries – Mali, Central African Republic (CAR), South Sudan, Sudan, Libya, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Somalia.

Moreover, the first-ever continental study on illicit arms flow in Africa, jointly carried out by the AU and the Geneva-based thinktank Small Arms Survey (SAS) in 2019, titled: Weapons Compass: Mapping Illicit Small Arms Flows in Africa, reveals 80% of all small arms in Africa to be in the hands of non-state actors, including rebel and militia groups. According to the survey, non-state actors control more than 40 million SALWs in circulation across Africa, while state actors control barely 11 million!

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Premised on the principle of Africa assuming total responsibility for its destiny, The African Union Master Roadmap of Practical Steps to Silence the Guns in Africa by Year 2020 was developed by AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) and adopted in January 2017. It offers a “realistic, practical, time-bound implementable steps to silence the guns in Africa by 2020.” Sadly, like most of our plans and roadmaps in Africa, the roadmap has been plagued by “implementation deficits”. Now, barely 11 months to the end of 2020, the likelihood of silencing the guns in Africa by year-end is as slim as that of a camel passing through the eye of a needle!

However, all hope is not lost. For Africa to completely silence the guns, there must be more commitment, coordination and synergy between all state and non-state actors working on the continent’s peace and security space; particularly the UN, AU and its Organs; Member States; Regional Economic Communities/Regional Mechanisms for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution (RECs/RMs); the Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa (CISSA) as well as African Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), amongst others.

Integral in silencing  the guns in Africa is strengthening of the PSC and other pillars of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) as well as ensuring synergy among them, on one hand, while also ensuring synergy and complementarity between APSA and the African Governance Architecture (AGA), on another hand. Notably, the planned merger of the AU Commission’s Peace and Security Department (PSD) and Department of Political Affairs (DPA), as part of the AU Reform Process is a commendable effort. We, at African Newspage, believe it will prove a game changer for APSA-AGA synergy.

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Also strategic in Africa’s peace and security architecture are the APSA pillars of the African Standby Force (ASF) and the Peace Fund, the principal financing instrument for peace and security activities on the continent, hence the urgent need for their strengthening and operationalization. Of utmost importance is the revitalization and operationalization of the ASF, as a multi-disciplinary continental force made up of standby regional brigades, ever ready for deployment at the shortest notice. Also worthy of commendation is the planned integration of the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC) into the ASF; this will enable quicker and more effective response to conflicts by the AU.

If sustained, the recent commitment shown by Member States of fulfilling their pledged contributions to the Peace Fund will guarantee predictable and sustainable financing for peace and security activities in Africa; the Fund has since 2017 received around USD 131 million from Member States. However, to ensure the realization of the planned full operationalization of the Fund in 2020, Member States need to accelerate this commitment. Doubtlessly, the Fund’s full operationalization will empower the AU to fully finance not only Peace Support Operations (PSOs) but also mediation and preventive diplomacy activities, institutional readiness and capacity on the continent.

For too long, Africa’s security landscape has been dominated by external actors, which has left the continent at the mercy of self-entrenched interests that often times, do not align with the continent’s priorities. Of particular concern is the various UN peacekeeping missions around the continent, whose combined annual budgets runs into billions of dollars but have largely remained ineffective in bringing about peace to the continent, hence their being termed as “pure business”. If Africa earnestly seeks to silence the guns, then it must also take charge of all peace missions, or at least, manage them jointly with the UN, as is the case with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and United Nations–African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID).

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Moreover, complete silencing of the guns in Africa will remain a mirage until the inflow of SALWs is stemmed. To achieve this, Africa must collaborate with the UN Security Council and major arms-producing countries towards a more coherent and holistic approach for arresting the tide. There also has to be deeper collaboration among intelligence and security institutions through CISSA, to stem the cross-border movement of arms along our largely porous and unmanned land borders. To curtail the inflow of SALWs through the sea borders, the AU has to ensure the proper integration of the 2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy and related policies of the RECs/RMs into APSA.

As the Silencing the Guns in Africa campaign takes center-stage at the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, this February, we are calling on all the African Heads of State and Government to redouble their commitment to ending all wars, civil conflicts, eliminating gender-based violence, and preventing genocide. For, that will be the surest path to attaining peace and stability, democratic governance and sustainable development in Africa, may be not by end of 2020 – but perhaps, in the near future!

 

 

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