Silencing the Guns in Africa

By Daniel Orogo

In 2013, African Heads of States and Government marked the 50th anniversary of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the precursor of modern-day AU. During this momentous celebration, they deliberately chose to focus on the theme, ‘Silencing the guns by 2020.

The heads of states noted that ongoing conflicts in many African countries significantly impeded peace and security, political stability, and socio-economic development. As an affirmation to support the continent’s new path for inclusive and sustainable economic growth, they signed the 50th-anniversary solemn declaration.

On peace and security, they stated the overall goal as achieving a conflict-free Africa by ending all wars, civil disputes, gender-based violence, violent conflicts and preventing genocide in the continent by 2020.

The Lusaka roadmap

The AU Master Roadmap of Practical Steps to Silence the Guns in Africa (AUMR) conference in Lusaka Zambia in 2016 was a follow-up to discuss the practical steps for silencing guns in Africa. The meeting identified poverty, economic hardships, manipulation of constitutions, violations of human rights, exclusion and inequalities, mismanagement of African rich ethnic diversity, and external interference in African affairs, as drivers of violent conflicts in Africa.

Additionally, during this retreat, African Union peace and security council member’s states, representatives of Economic Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC), AU Commission, Regional Economic Communities, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders were rallied for urgent action to stop violence in Africa.

However, even with the emphasis on the silencing the guns campaign including being adopted as the 2020 theme for the African Union, the year is coming to an end, but the vision bearers and stakeholders have not ended gun violence in Africa. Instead, we have conceded to the reality that there are more conflicts and wars than in the decades before. But why are the guns not silent in Africa?

We have conceded to the reality that there are more conflicts and wars than in the decades before. But why are the guns not silent in Africa?

Extended terms of presidents in office

The extension of terms of some African presidents in the office is a phenomenon that threatens peace and security in the continent. With impunity, the incumbents have continued to mutilate their countries’ constitutional instruments to cling to power. Surprisingly and in a sad turn of events, the African Union recognize these individuals as legitimate presidents and accommodate them into the Assembly of Heads of States.

The recent events in Guinea provide a clear illustration of African leaders violating the constitution. According to the Mail and Guardian, The Continent Issue of 24th October 2020, Guinea’s election crisis began earlier when the incumbent Alpha Conde declared his interest in running for a contentious third term against the opposition candidate Cellou Diallo.

After the elections, widespread violence broke out between the police and the opposition supporters in Route Le Prince, leading to the death of 22 people. Furthermore, the article reports about gunfire echoes across the capital as most residents decided to stay home until they feel secure. Why the inaction by the regional peace communities like the ECOWAS, NEPAD, and Africa union over Guinea’s events?

The south Kaduna and Zamfara ethnic violence in Nigeria

The flow of illicit, proliferation and circulation of arms and weapons in conflict zones remains another challenge to end gun violence. The timely access to sophisticated weapons supplied to rebels and warring factions by financiers, politicians, state actors and external entities, are factors contributing to violence in some countries like Nigeria.

Nigeria’s Kaduna state has been in conflict for decades. The violence has roots in ethnic tensions between Fulani Muslim bandits and non-Muslim populations. The killings of members of the Christian ethnic minority groups, burning of churches, houses, and property belonging to minority indicates availability and access to weapons by only the Fulani ethnic community.

The Kaduna state governor Mr Nasir Ahmed El –Rufai and the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, his Excellency Mohammadu Buhari, have shown ineptness and unwillingness to end the loss of lives and bloody violence in South Kaduna. More deafening is the silence by the Africa Union and the regional bodies.

The rise of warlord democrats in Liberia and Uganda

In 2005, former General Adolphos Dolo made headlines in both local Liberian and International news when he declared his intention to contest for one of the senate seats allotted to Nimba County. Running under the slogan ‘Let him butter your bread,’ the former warlord cleverly alluded to the nom de guerre translated as ‘general peanut butter’ and by extension, his past wartime attributes. However, Dolo represented all the evils that afflicted the country since the civil war in 1989. Dolo, against all the odds, eventually succeeded in winning the senate.

Yoweri Museveni is a former general who led a rebellion on the National Resistance Movement front that toppled Ugandan leaders Idi Amin and Milton Obote and captured the seat from 1986 to date.

History has recorded that war democrats like Dolo, Charles Taylor, and Museveni have not entirely transformed from wartime generals to post-war democrats. On the contrary, the former generals have exploited weak institutions and political parties to suppress political opponents while in power.

Currently, as the campaigns for the general elections in Uganda shapes up, both Ugandan military and the police acting on orders from Museveni have reportedly and in several occasions gained access into the National Unity platform NUP party headquarters and confiscated the Party’s campaign materials and documents.

Further, the Party’s flag bearer Mr Kyagulanyi Ssentamu Robert alias Boby Wine has been arrested and denied access to campaign in certain Uganda regions. More worrying is that out of the 11 candidates cleared by the Ugandan Electoral Commission to vie for Presidential elections scheduled for January 2021, three are former army generals and rebels: Mugisha Muntu Gregg of the Alliance for National Transformation (ANT), Tumukunde Henry Kakurrugu running independent candidate, and the incumbent Yoweri Museveni Tibuhaburwa Kaguta of the National Resistance Movement (NRM).

There is still hope

The following practical interventions could provide a solution to conflict and wards in Africa

With regards to the unconstitutional extension of terms of by the incumbents, the Africa Union should put mechanisms in place that ensures free, fair and credible periodic elections in Africa. Furthermore, there is a need to engage and encourage political actors, especially political parties and parliaments, to build a momentum of growing democratic space in the continent.

The AU and other peace and security actors while upholding constitutionalism, should consider including measures of evoking recourse to and use referenda to tap from the popular collective will of the people through national architecture for crucial peaceful political succession and predictable transfer of political power. It should also consider imposing sanctions and extra punitive measures in cases of proven violation of AU instruments of governance.

Regarding the proliferation of illegal weapons and firearms to insurgent groups and militia in Africa, the AU and member states should continue with promoting the ownership of national disarmament, demobilization and integration (DDR) and security sector reforms (SSR) programs. The designation of September as Africa’s amnesty month by the AU in 2017 is laudable step in the right direction. The AU should assist the member states in developing modalities of effecting possible amnesty to those who voluntarily surrender the illegal arms, even beyond the designated month.

To envision Africa, free of gun violence requires African leaders to be pragmatic and bold enough to implement the guiding documents stipulated in the declarations. With these in mind, it still possible to free Africa from bloody decades of violence and ensure the attainment of the Agenda 2020 and agenda 2063 ‘The Africa We Want.’

Mr. Orogo is a governance and political expert

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