Silencing the Guns: Will AU Security Council support roadmap implementation?

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on February 5, 2022. African heads of state pose for a group photo during the 35th Ordinary Session of the African Union (AU) Assembly. PHOTO/VOA News.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on February 5, 2022. African heads of state pose for a group photo during the 35th Ordinary Session of the African Union (AU) Assembly. PHOTO/VOA News.

This March, the Council is anticipated to carry an honest discussion on peace and security in Africa to debate the nexus between the African Union (AU) initiative Silencing the Guns in Africa and advancement.

Silencing the Guns is a watchword of a program that targets quieting down all illicit weapons in Africa, predominantly in conflicting regions: the Sahel, the Lake Chad Basin, the Central African region, eastern Congo, the Horn of Africa, Sudan, South Sudan and Libya. 

This does not imply that the countries that are in harmony should not do anything. Deterrence is fundamental. 

All illegally-acquired light weapons used in a crime, urban violence and cattle rustling are to be quieted down too.  

Grounds and recent advancements

The AU heads of state and government approved the Silencing the Guns by 2020 program as part of the May 2013 Solemn Declaration, marking the 50th anniversary of the AU and its predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity. 

According to the declaration, AU states affirmed 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,” the declaration proceeded.

To address implementation, the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) adopted an AU Master Roadmap of Practical Steps to Silence the Guns during a November 2016 retreat in Lusaka, Zambia.

When the aspirational deadline for wiping out war and conflict in Africa was reached, the AU Assembly held a special session on Silencing the Guns on December 6, 2020. 

During the session, the Assembly prolonged the implementation of the AU Master Roadmap for ten years, from 2021 to 2030, with systematic assessments every two years. 

Silencing the Guns in Africa has been an initiative calling for end of conflicts in Africa and the surrendering of illicit weapons. PHOTO/ISS Africa.
Silencing the Guns in Africa has been an initiative calling for end of conflicts in Africa and the surrendering of illicit weapons. PHOTO/ISS Africa.

The AU Assembly further lengthened up to 2030 the annual September commemoration and conduct of Africa Amnesty Month for the surrendering and gathering of unlawful arms and fire weapons. 

Amnesty month has been in a spot since 2017 to urge civilians to freely withdraw unlawful weapons in their ownership and custody on condition of anonymity, protection, and immunity from trial and prosecution.

In 2017, the AU declared September of each year as Africa Amnesty Month for the surrender and collection of illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) and to motivate extensive assistance for actions to eliminate the smuggling of SALW and, at the same time, modify AU’s Silence the Guns in Africa by 2030 initiative.

The AU has instructed its Member States to go on with “Silencing the Guns” initiatives throughout the year to strengthen any acceleration attained during September.

Furthermore, Africa’s Regional Economic Communities, other pan-African bodies and civil society organizations are motivated to publish Africa Amnesty Month widely to expand citizens’ participation.

The UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) is scheduled to aid Amnesty activities in Liberia, Tanzania, and Togo.

In each country, the civil outreach and weapons gathering activities are coordinated respectively by the Liberia National Commission on Small Arms (LiNCSA), Tanzania’s National Focal Point Coordinator on Small Arms and Light Weapons and Togo’s Commission Nationale de lutte contre la prolifération, la circulation et le trafic illicites des armes légères et de petit calibre (CNLPAL).

During Amnesty month, people who willingly surrender their illegal weapons and ammunition are not charged or litigated. 

But if detected, those who decline to withdraw such weapons after the month elapses will possibly be litigated by national laws.

In 2020, UNODA helped enforce the Africa Amnesty Month initiative in seven countries – Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, and Kenya.

It was said in 2020 that the objective of Amnesty Month was not to judge or charge people with carrying weapons unlawfully. 

That is why it is cited as the Amnesty program because there are no charges, legal action, or sentences.

The mushrooming of unlawful small arms and fire weapons and their use in numerous parts of Africa have stemmed in countless deaths, spoken and unspoken human agony, population banishment, economic decline, state failure, refugee flows and the destruction of significant infrastructure, all of which constrain actions at establishing a pacifist and thriving Africa, as foreknown in Agenda 2063—Africa’s blueprint for transformation.

The AU Assembly’s determination to lengthen the Silencing the Guns program up to 2030 encompassed calling for the Chairperson of the AU Commission to establish an institutional means to harmonize the constructive planning, monitoring and evaluation of the performance of the roadmap. 

The Monitoring and Evaluation Mechanism for the AU Master Roadmap of Practical Steps for Silencing the Guns in Africa by 2030 was approved in Nairobi in May 2021. 

The AU Assembly upheld this mechanism in February 2022, instructing member states and the regional economic communities and regional mechanisms (RECs/RMs), and all additional relevant key stakeholders to properly utilize the monitoring and evaluation mechanism as leading the way tool for monitoring the performance of the champion roadmap and notifying on advancement.

Further lately, on 21 January, AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat publicly declared the appointment of Mohamed Ibn Chambas as the AU High Representative for Silencing the Guns. 

Chambas succeeds Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra, who previously worked in this role.

The UN Security Council carried out a high-level discussion on Silencing the Guns on 27 February 2019, organized by Equatorial Guinea during its Council presidency. 

During that meeting, the Security Council adopted resolution 2457, which received AU’s “determination to rid Africa of conflicts and create conditions favourable for the growth, development and integration of the continent as encapsulated in its goal of Silencing the Guns in Africa by the Year 2020 and its Master Roadmap”. 

The resolution conveyed the Council’s readiness to assist in the performance of the African Union Master Roadmap of Practical Steps to Silence the Guns in Africa by the year 2020.

Among additional aspects, the resolution gave prominence to the desire for practical performance of fitting arms regulator and demilitarization instruments and dominions, urged AU member states to enhance the restriction of natural resource oversight, and referenced the benefit of the Secretary-General’s fair responsibilities when applicable, in the context of putting together AU-UN undertakings towards preventative tactfulness. 

The AU-UN joint mission is aimed at keeping peace in Africa. PHOTO/picture alliance / dpa.

Council members also debated the Silencing the Guns program during its annual conferences with the AU PSC, and they carried out an Arria-formula meeting on the initiative in October 2018. 

Key issues and options

A key principle for the forthcoming briefing is the nexus between Silencing the Guns in Africa and development. 

Silencing the Guns is one of the flagship projects under the AU’s Agenda 2063, which has been singled out as fundamental to quickening Africa’s economic expansion and progress. 

The Master Roadmap of Practical Steps to Silence the Guns recognizes, among supplementary aspects, economic, social and governance challenges and sets out strides to deal with these, such as by establishing facilitative surroundings and encouragements for investment and lessening defenselessness to livelihoods from climate alteration.

Despite the Silencing the Guns initiative since 2013, a critical issue is the continent’s arguably aggravating security trends. 

This encompasses the expanse of terrorism and violent extremism, resource-linked and inter-communal conflict, ethnic animosities, a resurrection of unconstitutional government transformations, and intra-state warfares such as in Cameroon, Ethiopia, and South Sudan.

Council members could contemplate debating components of the Silencing the Guns initiative, such as dispute deterrence, and examine how the Council could advance assistance to promote the initiative through a solution or supplementary aftermath. 

A Council product could also receive the AU’s opinion to lengthen the initiative until 2030.

The Africa Amnesty Month for the resignation and gathering of illegally possessed weapons has been here for a while yet the continent is still marred by human security challenges, chief among them armed conflicts, with no end in sight.

It is, consequently, a time for the AU’s Peace and Security Council (PSC) – credited with the deterrence, oversight and resolution of conflicts – to indicate what has and hasn’t worked. 

It must also establish the program for the following phases to undertake insecurity on the continent.

Council dynamics

Council members are confirmational of the Silencing the Guns initiative.

Nevertheless, it encompasses a comprehensive expanse of matters for stopping the conflict, from dealing with socioeconomic and governance challenges to heightening reserves for the AU’s preventative diplomacy and AU peace strategies. 

Distinctions, consequently, emerge among Council members on some of these matters, including members’ varying capacities on sanctions. 

While the master roadmap sets out actions such as committing an arms embargo on parties joined in conflict and the dispersion of small arms and light weapons, the Council’s three African members (currently Gabon, Ghana, and Mozambique) have advocated AU PSC calls since 2022 to cease prevailing Security Council arms embargoes in dispute crises such as the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan. 

The US and European members, for instance, do not consent to these calls.

YOU CAN ALSO READ: How recruiting children into wars decimates future generations

The use of UN-assessed contributions to give more dependable grants for AU-led peace enforcement or counter-terrorism undertakings also stays an uncertain subject among Council members.

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Awadifo Kili is a Ugandan Lawyer and Author. She is the Author of the books "Victorious Tales", "Echoes of Wails" and her recent book "Stains on a Cowrie Shell", a book crafted in an African narrative that presents the extent to which some traditions and customs are a barrier to the promotion and protection of human rights. Kili is passionate about human rights and her literature is around domestic, regional, and international human rights Law and perspectives.


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