The last decade in Africa has been full of challenges for African Heads of State especially in areas of humanitarian crisis, xenophobic attacks, conflict, terrorism, militancy, kidnapping, war, and migration. On the 9th and 10th of February, 2020, African leaders decided to meet under one voice to eradicate these menaces. The 33rd ordinary session of the assembly was aimed at silencing the guns all over Africa since guns create hindrances to Africa’s development. The operations manager of the African Union Commission, Ms. Aissatou Hayatou, iterated that “Silencing the Gun in Africa” aims to promote prevention, achieve a conflict-free Africa, prevent genocide, make peace a reality for all and rid the continent of violent conflicts, human rights violations, and humanitarian disasters.
The commission also mentioned that “Silencing the Guns” is a slogan of a project that targets silencing all illegal weapons in Africa. There will be an amnesty month in September, 2020 where those with illegally-acquired guns can hand them into the authorities without penalty. In addition, African states have also signed many treaties in order to maintain peace in chaotic regions. Here is a list of the international, continental and regional policies of the “Silencing the Guns” campaign: SDG (Goal 16.4) – significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows by 2030; Agenda 2063 – a peaceful and secure Africa; AU Bamako Declaration (2000) – African common position on the illicit proliferation, circulation and tracking of SALW; South African Development Community (2001) – protocol on the control of firearms, ammunition and other related materials; RECSA (Nairobi Protocol) (2004) – prevention, control and reduction of SALW in the Great Lakes Region and the Horn of Africa; ECOWAS (2006) – convention of small arms and light weapons; ECCAS (Kinshasa Convention) (2017) – Central African Convention for the control of small and light weapons ammunition, parts and components that can be used for their manufacture, repair or assembly.
During the summit it was agreed that countries at peace have a responsibility to maintain peace and stability in both their countries and their region: “prevention is key.” All illegally acquired light weapons used in crime, urban violence and cattle rustling need to be silenced too. Silencing the Guns calls upon all countries to invest in peace. However, disarming alone is not sustainable enough, so solutions have to be provided in order for communities in conflict to coexist.
In the same line, conversation on how guns can be silenced in Africa has been at the top of discussion these days. According to some researchers, 600 million Africans are unemployed, uneducated or in insecure employment. So therefore, African leaders need to do more in building peace, creating inclusive, multi-sector programs that will address the economic, social and environmental causes of the challenge and most especially, invest in economic development, education and technology in order to stop our youth from taking up arms.
Today, some African countries have been black listed by Europeans and Americans as unsafe destinations on account of recent terrorism and conflict. Most times these conflicts are attributed to despotic leaders who use democratic means to ascend to power. Here is a list of prominent terrorist sects in Africa: Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb; Allied Democratic Forces; Armed Islamic group of Algeria; Boko Haram; Egyptian Islamic Jihad; Lord’s Resistance Army; Al-Shabaab (militant group).
Though faced with different war front, African countries keep pushing and looking for better ways to handle and protect the territorial integrity of its nation. But then, the biggest challenge would be the national uptake of the campaign by member states, such as governments taking ownership of Silencing the Guns and actually developing national plans. Political will and leadership is necessary to make this happen. The AU and UN can come in and support countries. Further, the civil society and donors can also start mobilizing resources to support all these activities. Some success stories from AU, Private Organisation, Civil Society, UN and local NGOs include but are not limited to: providing basic counsel and assisting the affected communities and supporting reconciliation; deployment of AU Troops in Somalia, Central African Republic, Darfur, and the Lake Chad Basin for peace keeping; and ongoing community projects on reconciliation and peace building.
We need to keep at the back of our mind that peace is not a preserve of government, we all have a role to play to achieve peace in Africa. All AU Member states, 57 other countries across the globe plus the European Union as a major partner must all be involved in silencing the guns in Africa.
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