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Opinions of Friday, 21 February 2020

Columnist: Bening Ahmed

Silencing the Guns: Creating condusive conditions for Africa’s socio-economic development.

Bening Ahmed is the Deputy Secretary-General of the Pan African Youth Union Bening Ahmed is the Deputy Secretary-General of the Pan African Youth Union

“The basic building block of peace and security for all peoples is economic and social security, anchored in sustainable development. It is a key to all problems. Why? Because it allows us to address all the great issues- poverty, climate, environment and political stability as parts of the whole” – Ban Ki-moon (UN Secretary-General,2007-2016)
The African Union adopted ‘Silencing the Guns 2020’, within the framework of Agenda 2063.

Agenda 2063 is a strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of Africa over the next 50 years. It seeks to accelerate and sustain past and existing continental interventions, Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) for growth and sustainable development.
This agenda envisions an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa where development is driven by citizens, based on the Pan African ideal of unity of purpose.

The ‘Silencing the Guns’ framework aims at setting up a conflict-free Africa, prevention of genocide and getting rid of wars and violent conflicts. The African Union through this SPV wants to end humanitarian disasters and stop human rights violations across Africa. But the real question is whether our politicians and the resource hungry allies are ready for a peaceful Africa.

Over the last two decades, several international, continental and regional policy mechanisms have been introduced, targeting a conflict free continent. Several of these declarations and accords have been broken by the same leaders who declared and accepted them as such.

In the year 2000, the African Union adopted the Africa Common Position on the Proliferation, Circulation and Trafficking of Small Arms and Light Weapons. Sadly, several of the AU member countries like Sudan, Chad, Uganda, Libya, South Africa and Egypt have been complicit in the proliferation and circulation of SAWL across the continent. We have seen the continuous proliferation of these weapons into Eastern DRC and across central Africa and the Sahel.

Beyond the African Union, several regional structures have introduced region-specific policy frameworks which have not been effective due to the laxity and non-cooperation by member states in their implementation. Some of these SPVs include:

? The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Protocol on the Control of Fire Arms, Ammunitions and other Related Materials - 2001. ? Regional Center for Small Arms (RECSA) Nairobi Protocol - 2004. ? Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons - 2006. ? Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) Kinshasa Convention - 2017.

The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) which was introduced in July 2012 as a mechanism to regulate the international trade in conventional weapons and also to combat maritime piracy, transnational organized crime and persistent violence perpetrated by militants, insurgents, rebels and armed groups have seen significant progress. However, it continues to be undermined by huge influence from both global military powers and regional powers.

From 2012, when the ATT was introduced till date, we have seen a surge in arms proliferation across Libya, Central Africa Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and the Sahel. In fact, several countries in East, Central and North Africa have refused to sign the treaty.
Data available indicate that we have an estimated 100 million small arms and light weapons circulating in Africa.

About 52% of the 100 million are in the hands of civilians across the continent, majority of which are in sub-saharan Africa. Most of these weapons are found within the Sahel Region, the Lake Chad Basin, Central Africa, Eastern Congo, the Horn of Africa, Sudan, South Sudan and Libya.

The irony is that most of the countries within these geographical zones are complicit in the small arms scourge that is destabilizing the continent. This data is a compelling reason why countries within these geographical areas must sign and rectify the ATT.

Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) proliferation have wreaked havoc, killed millions of people, internally displaced millions and impoverished generations. The cost of war in Africa cannot be quantified but the scares of these prolonged violent conflicts are terribly visible in Burundi, DRC, South Sudan, Somalia, Liberia, Sierra Leone and currently in Libya.

According to Oxfam, between 1983-2005, an estimated 4.8million to 8.4million people died cumulatively from conflicts in DRC, Sudan and Rwanda. Many of whom were killed by rebels, militias, vigilantes and armed gangs, using uncontrolled arms.

The United Nations has stated recently that an estimated 200,000 tons of arms and ammunition are in circulation in Libya alone; the world’s largest uncontrolled weapons pile.

Very recently, world leaders met at the Munich Security Conference-2020 and on the sidelines of the International Follow-up Meeting of the International Committee on Libya to address the menace. The irony is that most of the members of this committee who discussed the arms problem in Libya are the major violators of the arms embargo on Libya.

The Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Libya recently noted that the arms embargo was a big joke. The preposterous acts of double standards demonstrated by the international actors in Libya jeopardized all efforts to restore stability, protect civilians and contribute to global peace.

Just like Libya, there is the urgent need for the international comity of nations to really commit itself to peace and security in Africa. The nagging double standards and lip service towards the peace and security of Africa is nauseating.

African Union leaders themselves have consistently displayed non commitment to the stability of the continent. The inter-state interference of some African presidents does not build an atmosphere of mutual trust. The future of Africa is not hinged on our struggle for territorial control and geopolitical influence but on the complementary roles that governments play harnessing the enormous resource potentials of the continent.

To silence the guns, there must be progressive efforts to end poverty, eradicate hunger, disease, deprivation and ensure economic empowerment, good governance and the elimination of corruption.

“It's a moral imperative, it's an economic imperative, and it is a security imperative. For we've seen how spikes in food prices can plunge millions into poverty, which, in turn, can spark riots that cost
lives, and can lead to instability. And this danger will only grow if a surging global population isn't matched by surging food production. So, reducing malnutrition and hunger around the world advances international peace and security - and that includes the national security of the United States”- Barak Obama

The growing incidence of youth unemployment, poor infrastructure, and the widening inequality will only further exacerbate the deteriorating peace and security in Africa.

The second step towards silencing the guns is addressing land grabbing and natural resource plunder on the continent. Cases in point are the prevailing situations in South Sudan, Kenya, Northern Nigeria and the Darfur region in the Republic of Sudan. Several conflicts related to land and water are also emerging across Africa as a direct result of population increase and climate change.

The ‘Silence the Guns’ agenda will require multi-stakeholder engagements at all levels, especially at the grassroots. Multi-sectorial programming should be with emphasis on youth development and gender mainstreaming, economic development, environmental sustainability and climate change. These multi-sectorial synergies must encapsulate special interventions by the United Nations and nation-specific policy mechanisms.

The efficient applicability of proposed interventions and their sustainability must be focused on the youth and women. The involvement of these two critical masses of our society will define the success or otherwise of this ambitious agenda.

Youth and gender mainstreaming will define the new phase of Africa’s security architecture. The AU must stop the systematic exclusion of women and youth from the discussion centered around the peace and security of Africa. The existing status quo has not worked since the AU Bamako declaration in 2000.

Conflicts in Africa have taken more complex dynamics, with religious extremism, armed militancy, insurgency, ethnic strife and cross-border violence taking center stage. These interrelated complexities require sophisticated peacebuilding and conflict resolution matrices.

The protracted conflicts continue to change in dynamics, often become unpredictable, evolving into complex webs of escalations that are detached from the original cause of the conflicts. This poses a greater challenge to peace and stability in several regions.

African leaders are being confronted with the difficult task of finding robust social systems which are capable of decoding the various complex maze of issues that create insecurity and instability on the continent.

Africa’s agenda to transform itself into a global economic powerhouse and build an integrated, prosperous and peaceful continent can only happen in a safe, secure and peaceful environment.

We in Africa must understand that the competing global forces and international systems prefer to have a struggling and subjugated Africa in order to be able to perpetuate their political and economic exploitation of the continent.

African leaders must lift themselves out of the shackles of foreign domination and control to be able to put an end to the wars and conflicts on the continent. We can only end the conflicts in
Africa when we build resilient institutions, which can withstand political manipulation and undue influence.

Our legal systems must be trustworthy, where citizens can feel safe and confident to seek justice. We must build legal systems which guarantee our societies effective justice delivery. The justice systems must be capable of eliminating the culture of impunity and effectively punish perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity, human rights violators and looters of national coffers.

This will truly promote the rule of law, promote socio-economic development and ultimately silence the guns. Without efforts to resurrect patriotism and build solid economic systems, thriving communities and appropriate infrastructure (health care, education, transportation, communication and portable water) the guns in Africa will never be silenced.

The solution to all the major conflicts in Africa is intricately linked to the effective application of the key action points of UNSCR 2250: Participation, Protection, Prevention, Partnership, Disengagement and Reintegration.

We must also consider the effective implementation of priority actions, which include gender sensitive conflict resolution mechanisms, consistent with the provisions of UNSCR 1325, especially post-conflict reconstruction, rehabilitation and integration. These actions are essential for forging tranquility and sustainable peace.

African states must effectively engage Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Non-Governmental Organization (NGOs), Community Based Organizations (CBOs), international partners and national political parties. We can only silence the guns based on these broad based stakeholder engagements and consultations.

In conclusion, our governments must stop signing resolutions, conventions and protocols which only gather dust on shelves. When they sign resolutions, conventions and protocols, they must commit themselves to taking meaningful actions towards their effective, successful and sustainable implementation.

God Bless Africa, Make her Great and Strong.