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Silencing the Guns

Violent intra-state conflicts remain endemic across the continent. In addition, armed violence has increased as a result of persisting and new threats emanating inter alia from terrorism, violent extremism, criminality, electoral violence, xenophobic attacks, resource-based conflicts, domestic violence and the continued proliferation of illicit arms, among others. These have exerted untold human suffering on a vast majority of Africans, resulting in deaths, loss of livelihoods and massive displacements, among others.

Africa is arguably the most vulnerable region in the world to the impacts of climate change. The majority of both bottom-up and top-down studies suggest that damages from climate change, relative to population and GDP, will be higher in Africa than in any other region in the world. Over the next 10 to 20 years, the African Development Bank [AfDB] Group estimated in 2012 that climate change adaptation costs in Africa will likely be in the region of US$20 to US$30 billion per annum.

The goal of achieving a conflict-free Africa is not entirely new. In July 2005, the 5th African Union summit adopted a “Declaration on the Review of the Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals, in which they resolved to achieve a conflict-free Africa by 2010”.

From 21 to 23 October 2014, the African Union (AU), in collaboration with the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania, hosted the Fifth High-Level Retreat on the Promotion of Peace, Security and Stability in Africa. Held in Arusha, Tanzania, and supported by the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) and Institute for Security Studies (ISS), the retreat brought together a range of senior representatives from the African Union Commission (AUC), including the commissioner for peace and security and special envoys, special representatives and distinguished mediators. Also in attendance were members of the African Union Panel of the Wise (AU PW) and Friends of the Panel of the Wise, senior representatives of the continent’s regional economic communities (RECs) and regional mechanisms (RMs), as well as eminent officials from the United Nations (UN), European Union (EU), League of Arab States, and civil society organisations.

Convened under the theme ‘Silencing the guns - owning the future’, the objective of the retreat was to provide a platform for delegates to take stock of the paradox that is Africa in terms of unprecedented levels of economic growth on one hand, and rising instability and insecurity in a number of particularly concerning regions and member states on the other. These include Democratic Republic of the Congo, of the Central African Republic, Somalia, Sudan, and elsewhere.

It was suggested that "much greater attention should rather be paid to understanding issues surrounding institution-building, in order to strengthen and support a growing democratic culture across the continent, whilst simultaneously seeking to mitigate against incidences of election-based violence. In this regard, observations were that African politics tended to favour weak democracies over strong autocracies..."

The African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises [ACIRC] is an African-owned initiative for military intervention launched as and when the need arises. It comprises volunteering nations, whose purpose is to rapidly respond to crisis situations on the African continent. ACIRC was first founded by the AU in 2013 as an interim measure to counter continued delays in establishing an ASF, which includes a quick reaction force and Rapid Deployment Capability. The ACIR strongly resembles the Force Intervention Brigade, deployed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to defuse armed groups as part of a UN mandate to restore stability in the country’s resourcerich east regions. South Africa contributed its best troops and an array of military hardware, state of the art communications and aerial surveillance equipment, and operated in concert with Malawian and Tanzanian troops.

The UN Security Council took note of the adoption of a Declaration of the G5 Sahel countries on the Fight against Radicalization and Violent Extremism in the Sahel. The Security Council requested the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) and its member entities, including the Counter Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate as well as the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre, to support Sahel countries efforts to counter terrorism and address conditions conducive to the spread of violent extremism which can be conducive to terrorism. It called on the CTITF to explore expanding its I-ACT Initiative to all the countries of the G5-Sahel.

The Security Council recalled that the 1540 Committee as its subsidiary body remained committed to supporting States, including the Sahel States, that require assistance in their efforts to comply with the obligations contained in resolution 1540 (2004). The Security Council called on the United Nations to accelerate action to also support the G5 Sahel in the implementation of the African Union’s “Silencing the guns” flagship project, consistent with its presidential statement of 16 December 2014 (S/PRST/2014/27).

The African Union and its Member States as well as its reg ional and sub-regional organizations, with the support of the international community, accelerated actions to achieve a conflict-free Africa and end all wars in Africa by 2020. This was in keeping with its vision and determination to build “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Afric a, driven and managed by its citizens, and representing a dynamic force in the international arena,” as emphasized in the 50th Anniversary Solemn Declaration of the Organization of African Unity/African Union. In order to realise this vision and objective, the African Union further adopted the historic Agenda 2063 and its First Ten-Year Implementation Plan (2014-2023) that collectively outline a set of aspirations, goals, priority areas, milestones and targets for, inter alia “Silencing the Guns by 2020.”

With only five remaining years to 2020, the African Union accelerated efforts at particularly the continental and regional levels to address priority issues a nd concerns for the realization of this target to silence the guns in Africa by 2020. Given their proximity to the ground, the five Regional Econmic Communities [RECs] have a crucial role to play, together with the African Union and international community, in ensuring concerted and coordinated efforts and actions at especially regional, sub-regional and national levels towards realising the goal of silencing the guns by 2020.

Agenda 2063 underscore the fundamental role of the RECs as building blocks and implementing arms of the African Union. As encapsulated in Agenda 2063, the RECs play an important role in generating evidence-based knowledge and analysis on the root causes and consequences of conflicts; and this information is vital for the effective design, implementation and monitoring of targeted programmes and/or projects that is aimed at silencing the guns by 2020. The RECs also play a crucial role in supporting the efforts of Member States in the promotion of peace, security, governance and development. In this regard, the RECs will be equally instrumental for supporting Member States’ efforts to achieve this ambitious target on silencing the guns by 2020, including by fostering regional and cross-border cooperation to inter alia effectively prevent and address armed conflicts, and combat terrorism, violent extremism and transnational organized crimes, including the illicit flows of arms.

It is however important to recognize that the RECs also have specific strategic and operational needs that will likely constrain their capacity to effectively contribute to the realization of this target on silencing the guns by 2020, if left unattended and unmet. For instance, at the strategic level, there is a need for greater cooperation, coordination and synergies between the AU and RECs on the one hand, and the UN-AU-RECs on the other, in developing and implementing joint strategies in conflict prevention, peacekeeping, peacebuilding, post-conflict reconstruction, ending the illicit flows of arms and supporting security sector reforms, among others, on the basis of their respective comparative advantages.

There is also an important and urgent need to harmonize the anticipated continental framework for silencing all guns by 2020, Agenda 2063 and its First 10-Year Implementation Plan as well as the global 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with the strategic and sectoral plans of the RECs. At the operational level, the technical and institutional capacities of the RECs need strengthening in the areas of integrated planning, monitoring and evaluation, among others, in order to effectively maximize their role in inter alia monitoring implementation of the continental framework on silencing all guns by 2020.



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