The Initiative for Practical Steps to Silence the Guns in Africa by Year 2020, was adopted at an African Union Retreat held in Lusaka, Zambia from 7 to 9 November 2016. It was prompted by the realization of the fact that ‘’Most crises and violent conflicts in Africa are being driven by poverty, economic hardships, violation or manipulation of constitutions, violation of human rights, exclusion, inequalities, marginalization and mismanagement of Africa’s rich ethnic diversity, as well as relapses into the cycle of violence in some post-conflict settings and external interference in African affairs. Undoubtedly, these challenges can be overcome, as long as the correct remedies are identified and are applied. Furthermore, in its First Ten Years Implementation Plan, Agenda 2063, stresses the imperative of ending all wars, civil conflicts, gender-based violence and violent conflicts and prevent genocide, as part of Africa’s collective efforts to silence the guns in the continent by the year 2020.
Silencing Guns in Africa is about ending all wars, civil conflicts, gender-based violence, violent conflicts and preventing genocide in the continent by 2020.The Solemn Declaration was adopted by the AU Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa on 26 May 2013, in which they, among others aspects, expressed their determination to achieve the goal of a conflict-free Africa, to make peace a reality for all our people and to rid the continent of wars, civil conflicts, human rights violations, humanitarian disasters and violent conflicts, and to prevent genocide. We pledge not to bequeath the burden of conflicts to the next generation of Africans and undertake to end all wars in Africa by 2020. In this regard, we undertake to:
• Address the root causes of conflicts including economic and social disparities; put an end to impunity by strengthening national and continental judicial institutions, and ensure accountability in line with our collective responsibility to the principle of non-indifference;
• Eradicate recurrent and address emerging sources of conflict including piracy, trafficking in narcotics and humans, all forms of extremism, armed rebellions, terrorism, transnational organized crime and new crimes such as cybercrime;
• Push forward the agenda of conflict prevention, peace-making, peace support, national reconciliation and post-conflict reconstruction and development through the African Peace and Security Architecture; as well as, ensure enforcement of and compliance with peace agreements and build Africa’s peace-keeping and enforcement capacities through the African Standby Force;
• Maintain a nuclear-free Africa and call for global nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy;
• Ensure the effective implementation of agreements on landmines and the non-proliferation of small arms and light weapons;
• Address the plight of internally displaced persons and refugees and eliminate the root causes of this phenomenon by fully implementing continental and universal frameworks.”
CAUSES OF ARMED CONFLICTS
Different types of conflicts have arisen in Africa in the past 100 years. The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Aide-Memoire equates conflict in Africa to civil war and describes four dimensions of a civil war. For example Salim (1999) classifies conflicts in Africa to include ‘’Boundary and territorial conflicts, civil wars and internal conflicts having international repercussions, succession conflicts in territories decolonized, political and ideological conflicts, and others, including those related to transhumance and irredentism. During the four decades between the 1960s and the 1990s, there have been about 80 violent changes of governments (Adedeji 1999, 3) in the 48 sub- Saharan African countries. During the same period many of these countries also experienced different types of civil strife, conflicts, and wars. At the beginning of the new millennium, there were 18 countries facing armed rebellion, 11 facing severe political crises (Adedeji 1999, 5), and 19 enjoying more or less various states of stable political condition’’
IS AFRICA JINXED? The wisdom in putting in place the Plan of Action to silence the guns was largely informed by conflicts that are cruel, protracted, make no distinction between combatants and civilians, often have no discernable political agenda (unlike the Cold war insurgencies), and are relatively resistant to external pressure” (Hutchful, 1998) In the Solemn Declaration, Africa’s leaders pledged to end ‘’the cycle of violent conflicts and disruptive crises persist on the continent, so do situations of relapses back into the cycle of violence and destruction for some countries that were perceived to have already emerged from conflicts. But it is glaring that leaders alone cannot successfully implement this policy except there is the political will to carry the people along. The natures of sub-regional conflicts have been described as strange and peculiar, particularly with regard to how innocent citizens have been driven into unnecessary conflicts through lack of education, poor reasoning faculties and poverty. Why for instance, would the ordinary person on the streets challenge any leader who asks him or her to go to war upon a flimsy excuse, usually provoked by self-interest? Why have Africans been unable to hod their leaders accountable, allowing themselves to be led by the nose into catastrophic and senseless wars? .
HOW THE SITUATION AROSE — THE WEST IS CULPABLE
The greater percentage of sophisticated arms and ammunitions are not made in Africa. Africans purchase small arms and weapons from the West that should naturally consider the implications of gun trade in the poorest continent in the world, depriving Africa of the much required resources for development and provision of infrastructure. Tracing the history of gun running in Africa, United Nations Report (2011) alerted that ‘’Millions of light arms — lightweight, highly portable, and devastatingly effective in the hands of even young or poorly trained users — were shipped to Africa during the Cold War to equip anti-colonial fighters, newly independent states and superpower proxy forces alike. The collapse of the Soviet bloc saw a new flood of small arms entering Africa as manufacturers put additional millions of surplus Cold War-era weapons on the international arms market at cut-rate prices. Years later, these durable killing machines fight on in the hands of insurgents, local militias, criminal organizations and ordinary people left vulnerable to violence by ineffective policing and simmering civil conflict. In some parts of Africa, a Soviet-designed AK-47 assault rifle, coveted for its simplicity and firepower, can be purchased for as little as $6, or traded for a chicken or sack of grain. In 1999 the Red Cross estimated that in the Somali capital of Mogadishu alone, the city’s 1.3 million residents possessed over a million guns — among an estimated 550 mn small arms in circulation worldwide. The West owes it a responsibility to help Africa by halting sale of arms and ammunitions to Africa and supporting measures to mop up these weapons..
WHY IS THE AFRICA FAILING?
It is a pitiable scenario. The World Bank puts the annual global cost of conflicts at US$100 billion; the African Development Bank estimates that ‘’on average, states affected by conflict and fragility, have missed out on half their potential GDP since 1980. Countries in conflict suffer a rapid decline in cross-border trade and do not attract foreign investment. They often suffer extreme devaluation of their currencies. Their infrastructure is destroyed or damaged; hospitals and schools may be used as camps for displaced people; children miss out on years of education. More consequences include poverty that is afflicting millions who also lack access to basic healthcare. They are vulnerable to climate shocks and price volatility, leading to food and nutrition insecurity which has been described as a ‘’serious obstacle to long-term stability and development for Africa’s people, its institutions and its businesses.’’ In countries gripped by major conflicts, children, women and men are dying, families and communities are being uprooted, and serious economic challenges are being confronted.
CONSEQUENCES – THE YOUNG ONES SUFFER UNTOLD DEPRIVATIONS
Another UN Report “African children have the worst life chances in the world,” noted the past Organization of African Unity Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim at a Pan-African Forum for Children in May 2001. “And the gap between the survival rates, the education and the development of Africa’s children and the children of other continents is increasing.” Narrowing that gap will be on the world’s agenda again this May, when heads of state and government convene at UN headquarters for the General Assembly Special Session on Children to assess progress towards the goals set at the 1990 summit. The leaders will pledge to build “a world fit for children” in the new millennium, but nowhere will that be more difficult than in Africa. (Michael Fleshman) To silence the guns, social problems like poverty, hunger etc must be addressed. The AU, in its report says it needs to address the root causes of the problem. To build peace, we need to create inclusive multi-sectoral programmes that will address the economic, social and environmental causes of the challenge. About 600 million young people in Africa are unemployed, uneducated or in insecure employment. We need to invest in economic development in order to stop our youth from taking up arms. The campaign aims to promote prevention, management and resolution of conflicts in Africa. “Silencing the Guns” is a slogan of a project that targets silencing all illegal weapons in Africa. We have an amnesty month in September 2020 where those with illegally-acquired guns can hand them in to the authorities without penalty.
EFFECTS OF WEAK GOVERNANCE STRUCTURES
The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs identified rulers of African nations as the major cause of conflicts in Africa. In this regard, Algeria, Burundi, Congo, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Eritrea/Ethiopia, Liberia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sudan and South Sudan/Darfur, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. The root causes of most of these problems have been political corruption, lack of respect for rule of law, inability to provide good governance, religious and ethnic issues and human rights violations. The death tolls from these crises in different parts of Africa are enormous and are basically more than those recorded in other parts of the world similarly engulfed by crises. For instance, the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo is literally one thousand times greater than that in Israel-Palestine.
WOMEN ON A MISSION FOR PEACE – INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITIES MUST HELP AFRICA
The UN Deputy-Secretary-General, Ms. Amina Mohammed has in the past one year taken a front row in the pursuit of peace in Africa. She has led a joint United Nations and African Union Solidarity Mission: Women, peace and security for development in the Horn of Africa and briefed the UN Security Council on her findings. On one of such visits, she urged the women of South Sudan not to abandon their dreams for peace. This is the fourth visit I have undertaken focused on women, peace and security and development, and the third joint solidarity’s mission with the African Union. She said: “You must not be tired. You must have hope. We must find ways to close the gap between the tragedy today, and your dream of tomorrow.” I am pleased that Ambassador Fatima Kyari Mohammed is here to brief alongside me. At the request of the Prime Minister, I also travelled with senior United Nations officials to Sudan, to focus on support for the transition, UNAMID, and women’s leadership. These missions are an opportunity to strengthen implementation of our shared UN-AU frameworks — on peace and security, the 2030 and 2063 Agendas, and on Silencing the Guns. In each country we met heads of state, ministers, senior women government officials, civil society, the international community and our United Nations country teams and peacekeeping missions. I left all five countries with a sense of hope and optimism. The chance for peace in this region is real. The international community together with these countries can find lasting solutions to the complex challenges of the region. Each country is moving at its own pace through a process of reform and transformation. And in all countries, women are playing a critical leadership role in social cohesion, economic revival, and peace.
IF WE FAIL IN AFRICA; WE FAIL IN THE WORLD – ANTONIO GUTERRES:
Most conflicts in Africa are civil wars and armed struggles caused mainly by religious, ethnic, and regional identities. But at the root of these conflicts are economic and political concerns. So the participants resolve to focus more on conflict resolution by dealing with the root causes of conflicts which most often include but not limited to the structural violence of horizontal inequality, relative deprivation, security needs, recognition, and distributive justice. In 2018, there were 21 active civil wars on the continent – the highest number recorded in Africa since 1946. At a meeting with the UN Staff located at the African Union at the 28th Summit of the African Union, UN Secretary-General Anthonio Guterres stated that: “Africa is unfortunately seen mostly as a continent with crises and sometimes we in the UN are also responsible for that.. There is the need for a different narrative about Africa – a positive narrative that the Economic Commission for Africa had contributed extraordinarily to. Many African leaders have praised the ECA for its role in changing the narrative about Africa and contributing towards the structural transformation of the continent. Africa remained resilient while faced with multiple challenges, including the vagaries of climate change, poverty and malnutrition.’’
SUGGESTED SOLUTIONS: — CLOSING THE GAPS OF INEQUALITY
Eminent scholar, Prof. Akin Mabogunje sees philanthropy as one of the solutions. According to him, ‘’some 80% of Belgians see philanthropy as an essential way of addressing the challenges facing society. Belgians are even more aware of the benefits of philanthropy than other Europeans. ‘’Even in economically uncertain times, philanthropy plays a vital role in supplementing what the government, the associations sector and businesses can do for society. Similarly, President of the Ford Foundation, Darren Walker asserts that: ‘’Around the world today, the greatest threat to justice is inequality. Inequality is the byproduct of systems and structures — intentional policies and ingrained prejudices — that have over many decades tilted the scales in favor of some, while limiting opportunity for many others. Inequality is political, social, and cultural in nature. ‘’It contributes to deficits in democracy and discrimination along racial, ethnic and gender lines. It is reflected in rising extremism, acute poverty, and even in the consequences of climate change. The stakes are high because we understand inequality to be global, pervasive, growing, and a central threat to social justice and human dignity. Ultimately, it will take all of us, working together, across boundaries of geography, expertise, differences, and belief, to uproot inequality and plant a new tree that can grow into justice, once and for all.’’
It seems foolhardy for leaders of African nations who are largely responsible for conflicts on account of poor governance culture to continue to spend funds for development of their countries on prosecuting civil wars. Current figures indicate that of the 640 million small arms and light weapons circulated globally, an estimated 100 million are located in Africa, 30 million of which are found in sub-Saharan Africa. The accumulation and proliferation of these weapons across the region have directly resulted in conflicts with longer durations and higher fatalities and can be linked to the recruitment of child soldiers, transnational criminal violence, non-state terrorist campaigns, and various humanitarian violations including rape, torture, and kidnapping. In addition to eliminating and preventing the causes of conflict, it is also necessary to reduce military resources and secure the state’s monopoly on the use of force. There should be functioning mechanisms for the peaceful resolution of conflicts in all areas of society in order to promote a culture of peace and tolerance among the peoples of Africa. (Sierra Method)
FOREIGN & LOCAL INFLUENCE
Next is foreign influence and complicity. The foremost arms exporters to the African continent are Russia, China, and the US. In many of Africa’s fragile states, the activities of foreign actors have undermined regional efforts to curb violence and have contributed to political and social divisions. A case in point is Libya, where since the start of 2019 a civil conflict between two rival governments has rapidly spiraled into a destructive proxy war. Despite a UN arms embargo, foreign states – including Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan – have been implicated in the channelling of arms and ammunition to both sides, undermining prospects for a peaceful resolution and contributing to a growing humanitarian crisis. Moreover, the AU has been effectively side-lined in diplomatic efforts to solve the crises, that have largely been managed from outside the African continent. (Julian Karsenn; 2020) However, attaining compliance has been a challenge. Specifically amongst those African states engaged in the manufacture of SALWs and ammunition, many have not signed or ratified the Arms Trade Treaty, including Algeria, Angola, Namibia, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Egypt, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Uganda. Moreover, several African states have been implicated in the deliberate unauthorised transfer of materiel to conflict zones.
WHY THE PROBLEMS PERSIST
Prof. Ibrahim Gambari during his tenure the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Africa emphasized, in an IRIN interview (2000) that ‘’Conflicts in Africa are particularly complex. ‘’In many African conflicts, even when you send peace keeping operations, there is not often peace to keep. Second, there is the issue of resources being misused to fuel African conflicts, particularly diamonds, as in Sierra Leone or Angola. So you have the complexity of the problems in terms of the collapse of state institutions as in Somalia, horrendous cases of genocide as in Rwanda, atrocities being committed by child soldiers in Sierra Leone and several wars going on at the same time with the involvement of several countries, as in the case of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Elsewhere, Gambari stated at ‘The UN Forum’, the need for Africa to embrace the culture of good governance as a prerequisite for development. Gambari asserts that “When you talk about development, we have a role there, because I don’t see how development can be successful without the issues of governance: the rule of law, the politics of inclusion rather than the politics of exclusion,” He continues:. “If you address the root causes of conflict and if you accept that conflict and wars retard development — in no continent is this more true than in Africa, because one of the main reasons Africa is behind the rest of the world is precisely because it has the largest number of conflicts. ‘’People are not going to invest in countries of conflict, and without investment, both domestic and foreign, they are not going to have production. ‘’They’re not going to have employment, and it’s a vicious circle.”
MOVING AFRICA FORWARD
It is trite to say that Africa is under-developed arising from senseless conflicts. Africa’s rulers purchase arms to the detriment of development in a world in which a billion of the world’s people are hungry, a billion of the world’s people cannot read a single word. While Africa’s rulers prosecute pointless wars, there are less concerns for planning for the future in a poverty stricken society in which people still live on less than $2 a day; and a billion of the poor all over the world go to bed hungry. ’Many of the challenges that the world faces, including; inter alia: climate change, conflict-based migration, human rights violations, financial regulation, fair trade, tax avoidance and security require global solutions. ‘’While overcoming poverty remains the core development challenge, this challenge is directly linked to these issues. Many of the analyses of contemporary global challenges point to the need to do a better job of promoting sustainable development, tackling trans-boundary challenges, and managing global public goods through internationally coordinated collective action. (Mkandawire Thandika)
Delivering a lecture at the London School of Economics, former Deputy-Governor, (Financial Systems Stability) Central Bank of Nigeria, Dr. Kingsley Moghalu (2014) asserted that ‘’The intervention of military governments in most African countries in the three decades between the 1960s and the 1990s set back the hand of the clock in Africa’s economic development, because it led not to benign dictatorships that drove economic development as happened in some Asian countries, but to the restriction of the space for the evolutionary development of good, accountable governance. With the return of virtually all African countries to democratic status, this challenge remains, alongside that of economic development.’’ Moghalu stated that ‘’Governance and leadership determine to a large degree how much progress a country can make on the economic front. If the governance of an African country is based on the search for the economic progress of citizens and the effort is well directed and managed, economic transformation can occur. But if governance is based on rent-seeking and competition for the spoils of public office, the resources of the state will be drained far more than real wealth can be created, in which case the dividends of democracy become questionable.’’
EFFECTS OF COVID
In June, 2020, the African Union called for redoubling of efforts to silence the guns in Africa. The AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, Ambassador Smail Chergui, stated that: “the threat posed by COVID-19 has considerably slowed the momentum of the silencing the guns agenda, and our intention is to further accelerate our collective efforts to end conflicts and crises in Africa, while expressing concern that terrorists and armed groups have failed to heed the calls of the AU and UN leadership for a global ceasefire”. These factors have severely affected humanitarian access to conflict and crisis areas and limited the reach of support and relief efforts, exacerbating the dual impact of the conflict and the damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic on the most vulnerable, namely refugees, internally displaced persons, returnees and migrants, as well as youth, women, children and the elderly’’ Beyond the foregoing, there are justifiable fears that ‘’Silencing the Guns’’ goal would be unattainable, especially if illegal arms trade continues to flourish. According to the 2019 Small Arms Survey, around 35 million unregistered small weapons are currently in circulation on the continent. A latest report by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation on African governance shows a decline in overall progress for the first time in a decade. This has been driven by a decline in security and the rule of law in some countries. The 2020 Ibrahim Index on African Governance (IIAG) has named Mauritius, Cape Verde, Seychelles, Tunisia, and Botswana as the 2019 top-scoring countries. Angola and Somalia remain at the bottom but on a steady path of improvement.
WHY THE PROBLEM LINGERS
• Bad governance and corruption. …
• Human rights violations. …
• Ethnic marginalization. …
• Small arms and light weapons proliferation.
ATTAINING THE OBJECTIVE A report of the Global Policy Forum laments that: ‘’Today, Africa remains the poorest and least-developed continent in the world, afflicted by hunger, poverty, terrorism, local, ethnic and religious conflicts, corruption and bribery, and disease outbreaks. Africa is not in dearth of policies and frameworks, but implementation. The silencing the guns campaign is a laudable initiative and one of the smartest in ensuring continental peace and security. This campaign must go beyond 2020 and must be pursued rigorously. The political will to implement is of great concern and African leaders need to rise above self-interest and work for a united, peaceful and prosperous continent. To realize the overall goal of silencing the guns campaign, multi-track diplomacy must be invoked so that all stakeholders can be involved because peace-building is not just for governments and multilateral institutions, but for all.