Africa failing to silence guns, says Pohamba

By Anastasia Paulus

Windhoek – Africa made minimal progress in its effort to work towards achieving a war-free continent by 2023 and the continent needs to work harder to achieve peace, former Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba has said.

The African Union (AU) has committed to silencing guns that continue to cause suffering in several countries on the continent.

The former Namibian head of state was speaking in his capacity as the Chairperson of the AU Panel of the Wise. The five-member panel consists of highly respected African individuals who made immense contributions towards peace, security and development in Africa.

The panel supports and advises the Chairperson of the AU Commission and AU Peace and Security Council in the area of conflict prevention and uses its influence to carry out conflict mediation and broker peace agreements between warring parties.

The other members of the panel are outgoing Liberian President Ellen Johnson representing West Africa,  former Ugandan vice president Dr Speciosa Kazibwe (East Africa),  Armah Moussa  from Egypt representing North Africa, and Catherine Samba-Panza from Central African Republic (Central African region).  Pohamba represents Southern Africa on the panel.

Over the years, terrorist groups, including Boko Haram, have been waging wars against authorities in Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon that has affected about 30 million people and displaced over two million others.

In the Horn of Africa, there are civil wars ragging in South Sudan and Somalia where over 300 people died in a bomb blast in the capital Mogadishu blamed on the Al Shabaab militant group.

Civil strife fanned by other extremist groups continues to ravage countries in the north, including Libya, Mali and Algeria.

Violent conflicts in the Great Lakes region also continue, especially in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  Close to 4 000 people have died since violence erupted between the military and rebels late last year in DRC’s Kasai region.

The conflict is said to have displaced over three million people, while many others have fled the country to Zambia, Angola and other neighbouring countries.

Silencing of guns is one of the 13 flagship projects under the First Ten-Year Implementation Plan (2014-2023) of the AU’s Agenda 2063 that are expected to be successfully implemented within a decade.

Agenda 2063 is a strategic framework that AU member states have adopted to advance socio-economic transformation for the next 50 years. According to AU, the plan builds on and seeks to accelerate the implementation of past and existing continental initiatives for growth and sustainable development.

“Since the adoption of Agenda 2063 four years ago, Africa we have not been able to bridge the gap between the lofty aspirations of Silencing the Guns and our ability to mobilise resources to translate the aspirations into tangible, measureable programme of action to resolve the prevailing conflicts in Africa.

We have to work relentlessly to achieve peace in order to devote our resources to economic and social development of our continent,” Pohamba said.

“In the past few decades, the peace and security landscape in Africa has fundamentally been affected by the emergence of terrorism that has afflicted some of our countries with tragic consequences to the civilian population.

Today no part of Africa is safe from the scourge of terrorism.”

Pohamba made the observation in a statement he delivered during the AU High-Level Retreat on Promotion of Peace, Security and Stability in Africa, in N’djamena, Chad.

The empowerment of women and youths to fulfil the African dream is another key feature of Agenda 2063, which the former Namibian leader said needed to be given extra focus.

He stressed that as Africa forges ahead with her efforts to silence the guns by 2023,  there must be inclusion of women in an effort to silence the of guns on the continent.

“We need to enhance the women peace and security agenda by strengthening the Office of the AU Envoy on Women Peace and Security.  Women are not mere victims of conflicts.

Experience has shown that they can be agents of peace when they are fully involved in mediation, conflict management and resolution,” he said.

Pohamba said Africa should continue to redouble efforts to assist countries to find political solutions.

“The Panel of the Wise is more than ready to join the Chairperson of the African Union Commission in helping to find solutions to the conflicts prevailing on our continent.

“At the national levels, the major challenges in Africa are the rising levels of poverty, persistent inequality and non-inclusive economic growth which have serious implications on the security of our countries and the continent at large.

“The need to create jobs especially for the youth and the expansion of economic growth as well as value addition and mineral beneficiation are other challenges facing the continent,” he said.

The meeting held on Tuesday and Wednesday in the Central African country was held under the theme “The Emerging Global Order, Multilateralism and Africa”.

Pohamba said the theme of the meeting was pertinent and timely and that it was in recognition of the importance that Africans attach to multilateralism and the role that the continent should play in world affairs.

He said the meeting provided an excellent opportunity for the continent “to reflect and exchange ideas on how best Africa can benefit from its multilateral engagements and the opportunities presented by the evolving global order”.

“To remain relevant, Africa through the implementation of its Agenda 2063 should take advantage of opportunities presented by the evolving world order to reposition itself, so that it can continue to exert more influence on the direction of global developments and the management of world affairs.

“In so doing, we must ensure that  the new world order does not turn out to be a new version of the same old patterns of domination of the strong over the weak and the rich over the poor nations or exploitation of natural resources of the developing countries by the developed world,” Pohamba said.

“Africa should also be a strong advocate and active role player for reforms of governance structures of international financial institutions, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund which so far are dominated by developed countries.

“It is equally important to ensure that multilateral trade regimes are responsive to Africa’s special needs and conducive to the integration of our economies into the mainstream of the world economy.

“In particular, we should strive to ensure that the World Trade Organisation is able to establish a trading system that is truly open, transparent, multilateral and beneficial to all countries.

Only in this way can we influence the international economic system to make it more equitable and beneficial to Africa,” he said.

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