Will AU succeed in silencing the guns on the continent?

Jul 10, 2017

By Southern Times Writer

Africa must continue to do its best to silence the guns by 2020 and to speak with one voice on major peace and security issues on the continent, especially through agreed common positions, the chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, has said.

Speaking at the end of the continental body’s 29th Ordinary Summit in Addis Ababa, Mahamat said throughout the summit, he had emphasised on the need for the continent to give priority to conflict prevention and anticipation.

He called upon the regional groupings and mechanisms to intensify their actions, in close cooperation with the relevant bodies of the African Union.

Despite attaining political independence, Africa has been blighted by conflicts, with several countries undergoing armed conflicts which have caused serious humanitarian crises and retarded development.

Countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Saharawi, Somalia, Sudan, and South Sudan are embroiled in conflicts which has resulted in huge losses of life and caused severe underdevelopment.   

However, the AU has an ambitious programme to curb conflicts on the continent.

Aptly named Silencing the Guns, the initiative is part of the continental bloc’s Agenda 2063 and seeks to end armed conflicts, terrorism and strife on the continent, and to work for peace and prosperity.

Under the initiative, African leaders have pledged not to bequeath the burden of conflicts to the next generation and to end wars on the continent by 2020.   Observers say the initiative signals the aspiration for a peaceful and secure Africa as the most urgent priority.

The programme is spearheaded by the African Peace and Security Council, which is mandated with preventing, managing and resolving conflicts as well as maintaining peace and security on the continent.

Mahamat spoke about the partnership between the African Union and the United Nations, especially the cooperation in peace and security, as well as the partnership with the European Union on issues of peace and security and the fight against terrorism and radicalism; economic, democratic and electoral governance issues.

On peace and security, Mahamat said in order to deal with all conflicts, the AUC has decided to give priority to prevention and anticipation. He called upon the regional groupings and mechanisms to intensify their actions, in close cooperation with the relevant bodies of the African Union.

Mahamat went on to call for better alignment between the decisions made by the AU and their implementation.

However, analysts question whether the initiative to silence the guns would succeed on a continent plagued by conflicts and acts of terrorism in countries such as Somalia, where Al Shabaab wreaks havoc; Nigeria with the scourge of Boko Haram; the DRC where armed groupings often sprout out and cause untold havoc; and in Libya which has been torn apart since the demise of Muammar Gaddafi.

They point out that of all the continent’s five geographical areas, it is only Southern Africa which enjoys relative peace and stability.

This could be attributed to the SADC Standby Brigade which supports regional peace operations under the African Standby Force Policy Framework. The brigade, launched in August 2008, is made up of military, police and civilian members from SADC member states.

The brigade participates in missions as envisaged in Article 13 of the “mandate” of the Peace and Security Protocol relating to the establishment of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union, which includes: observation and monitoring missions; peace support missions; interventions for peace and security restoration at the request of a member state; and actions to prevent the spread of conflict to neighbouring states, or the resurgence of violence after agreements have been reached.

Whether the AU will be able to meet its goals of silencing guns by 2020 remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, the 29 th Summit of the AU closed on Monday after nine days during which various statutory organs of the union met to get status updates and make decisions on issues of importance to the continent.

At the final press conference held in Addis Ababa on Tuesday, Mahamat said the summit focused on three main issues: institutional reform of the AU being spearheaded by Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who presented a report to his fellow heads of state and government. In its decisions, the assembly agreed to expedite the reform process, taking into account the inputs received from member states.

Mahamat said the summit also discussed migration and employment.

In this regard, a presentation was made by President Idris Deby Itno of Chad, who was the leader on the AU theme of the year, “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in the Youth”.

Itno updated the summit on the various initiatives undertaken across the continent in line with theme.

Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf gave her final address to the African Union Assembly before her country proceeds to elections to elect a new head of state.

She thanked the African Union for its support in the fight against Ebola.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe donated US$1 million to the African Union (AU) Foundation in fulfillment of his pledge towards self-sustenance of the continental bloc.

In 2015, Mugabe pledged 300 cattle to the AU Foundation to discourage Africa from over- reliance on external partners whose donations come with several conditions.

The pledge expanded to thousands of cattle following overwhelming support by Zimbabwean farmers. The cattle were subsequently sold and raised the US1 million that Mugabe handed over to the AU.

During his tenure as AU chair from January 2015 to January 2016,  President Mugabe advocated for the bloc’s self-financing as at present,  about 60 percent of its budget is funded by donors.

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