Briefing on Disarmament and Control of Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons in Africa

Illicit Weapons – Use, Proliferation and Disarmament

Date | 18 May 2022

Tomorrow (18 May) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) will hold its 1085th session on “Disarmament and control of Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons in Africa.”

Following the opening remark by Ambassador Churchill Ewumbue-Monon, Permanent Representative of Cameroon and the Chairperson of the PSC for May, AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), Bankole Adeoye is expected to make a statement.

Representatives from the different Regional Economic Communities and Regional Mechanisms (RECs/RMs) as well as representatives from the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) and the Secretariat of the Arms Trade Treaty and Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Centre (KAIPTC) are also expected to participate at the session.

This theme for tomorrow’s session is specifically referenced in the preamble to the PSC Protocol. Most specifically, the Protocol expressed the concern ‘about the impact of the illicit proliferation, circulation and trafficking of small arms and light weapons in threatening peace and security in Africa’. Similarly, the 2004 Solemn Declaration on African Common Defense and Security Policy identifies as one of the factors that engender insecurity in Africa. Addressing the scourge of SALW also forms part of the AU Agenda of Silencing the Guns and is one of the pillars of the Master Roadmap on Silencing the Guns in Africa. In terms of specific instruments, on a continental level, the AU Assembly adopted the 2013 AU Strategy on the Control of Illicit Proliferation, Circulation and Trafficking of Small Arms and Light Weapons, as well as a corresponding Action Plan. At the sub-national level, there is the example of the Nairobi Protocol on the Prevention, Control and Reduction of SALW applicable in 15 countries in the Great Lakes region, the Horn of Africa and bordering states.

The proliferation of and easy access to Illicit arms and weapons continues to be a major factor in fueling conflicts and making inter-communal clashes increasingly deadly. It remains to be a single critical instrument that enables terrorist groups, armed militias, criminal bandits and vigilante groups in various conflict and crisis settings on the continent. Indeed, this is one of the factors that has made the increase in the number of conflicts and the expansion of the geographic spread of such conflicts, particularly those involving armed terrorist groups. Tomorrow’s session thus provides an opportunity for the PSC to receive updates on patterns and trends in arms and ammunition inflows, illicit circulation and trafficking and gaps in control measures.

The last time the PSC convened a session on illicit proliferation and trafficking of SALW was at its 860th meeting held on 18 July 2019.  During the session, the PSC welcomed the findings of the joint mapping study conducted by the Commission and the Small Arms Survey which was launched in July 2019. The study, published under the title “Weapons Compass: Mapping Illicit Small Arms Flows in Africa,” was the first-ever continental study that under the AU sought to map the problem of illicit proliferation of SALW. At the time the study was conducted, it was reported that there were forty-million of such weapons were in possession of civilians. This figure, according to the study, accounted for 80% of arms on the continent. There is little indication to show that this level of circulation of illicit weapons among the civilian population has come down.

In the context of the eruption of new conflicts and the expansion and persistence of existing conflicts as well as inter-communal violence in various parts of the continent, it is logical that the number of illicit weapons circulating on the continent has also increased. According to the 2021 Small Arms Survey research, there is an increase in smuggling and trafficking activities due to growing local demand for illicit goods and firearms. The local demand is fueled by banditry, communities’ need for self-defence, and the reliance in firearms of artisanal and small-scale gold mining operators. As a case in point, the survey specifically assessed the tri-border region, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, and Mali.

The other factor for the proliferation and trafficking of illicit SALW is the challenges surrounding the availability of reliable data on stockpiles of member states and the safe keeping of those stockpiles. As the PSC noted in its 860th session the diversion of small arms and light weapons from national stockpiles is a significant factor contributing to the proliferation of SALW. There is thus the issue of auditing of stockpiles in member states and enhancing capacities for the safekeeping of stockpiles. Related to these are contingent owned equipment (COE) that are deployed for use in peace support operations. These weapons diversions are largely due to battlefield loss, mismanagement, theft, and corruption. According to reports, COE loss has occurred in at least 20 peace operations in 18 African countries. Lethal materiel lost in the past 10 years alone has included many millions of rounds of ammunition, thousands of small arms and light weapons, and likely hundreds of heavy weapons systems. Nonlethal materiel, such as unarmed vehicles and motorcycles, uniforms, communications equipment, and fuel, have also consistently been a target.

It is clear that stockpiles become a source of illicit circulation and trafficking in at least two ways. First, the lack of complete data and statistics by member states and the corruption in the armed forces mean that traffickers and armed groups pay for accessing weapons kept in such stockpiles. Second, nonstate armed groups have regularly targeted and overrun peacekeepers and national armed forces to seize lethal and nonlethal materiel. This has also become a significant source of armaments for Africa’s militant groups, fueling instability on the continent.

Illicit circulation of weapons also arises in the context of implementation of disarmament processes. Here a challenge worth mentioning is the lack of effective and complete demobilization, disarmament and reintegration (DDR), noted in the AU Solemn Declaration on Common African Defense and Security Policy. In cases where no effective framework and resources for undertaking DDR as part of peace agreements for settling conflicts are provided for, weapons in the hands of armed groups ends up being traded. Similarly, the poor implementation of DDR including the proper accounting of weapons and arms in the hands of various armed groups in the DDR process would mean that such weapons and arms remain outside of the control of formal institutions.

Furthermore, for widely differing reasons non-African states appear set to increase their supply of lethal materiel to African governments. The PSC in its several communiques including on its 1029th commemorating the 2021 Africa Amnesty Month session condemned non-African states sponsoring and promote the influx of arms into Africa, including in cases of existing armed embargoes, leading to the further escalation of existing conflicts. Indeed, unless COE control measures are strengthened, these arms flows could contribute to greater instability.

Tomorrow’s session also serves as an opportunity for follow up on previous decisions of the PSC. It is to be recalled that the PSC in its 1040th session convened on 22 October 2021, requested the Commission, working closely with Member States and RECs/RMs, to conduct a second phase of the Mapping Study on Small Arms and Light Weapons. The council also requested the RECs/ RMs to continue to submit reports through the AU commission, on the actions taken in line with Africa Amnesty month.

In the current global context, one aspect of the war in Ukraine that may warrant Council’s attention is also the rising risk of the use of foreign fighter and mobilisation of large number of weapons and arms finding their way in the hands of traffickers and ending up in conflict settings in Africa. In the absence of proper tracing and regulation mechanism, the large-scale mobilisation of weapons and arms in the context of this war can have an adverse impact as had been witnessed with the case of spread of weapons and foreign fighters post-Libyan conflict. It is therefore imperative for the AU to take advance note of and imagine preventive measures on how the mobilisation of such weapons and arms in Ukraine without an effective tracing mechanism in place could impact Africa by boosting illicit transfer of arms from the war in Ukraine.

The expected outcome of tomorrow’s session is a communique. The council may express deep concern over the growing Illicit flow of Small Arms and Light Weapons in Africa. The PSC may call for the AU to work with member states to launch a process for auditing of stockpiles with a view to enable states to have up to date data on the quantity and type of weapons and arms in their possession as a basis for ensuring the monitoring and safekeeping of stockpiles. The PSC may also call on member states to undertake measures that enhance the safe keeping and protection of stockpiles important measure for preventing leakages through corruption and vulnerabilities of stockpiles for attacks from armed groups. The PSC may also call for an African Strategy on the implementation of the Armed Trade Treaty at the continental levels as a means of controlling flows of weapons and arms into the continent and the trading of such weapons and arms within the continent. It also might call upon member State and the RECs to enhance cross border security and strengthening their monitoring and controlling mechanisms. Council may also urge member states to implement regional and international instrument to curb illicit flow of SALW. Further the council may reiterate its request to conduct second phase of the Mapping Study on Small Arms and Light Weapons in Africa. The PSC may also urge for effective integration of DDR programs in peace agreements and the proper implementation of such programs.


Briefing on Mine Action

Illicit Weapons – Use, Proliferation and Disarmament

Date | 1 April 2022

Today (1 April), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is expected to convene its 1072nd session to receive a briefing on mine action in Africa. The session will be held in person. This will be the first in person PSC session since the Council made a decision in March 2020 to hold all its meetings virtually due to COVID19 restrictions on physical meetings.

It is envisaged that following the opening remarks of the PSC Chairperson of the month and Permanent Representative of Burundi to the AU, Willy Nyamitwe, the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), Bankole Adeoye, will make a statement. It is also expected that the representatives of the United Nations Office to the AU (UNOAU), the European Union (EU) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) will deliver their statements.

The session is taking place at the margins of the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action which is observed on 4 April. The session is expected to shed light on the impact of anti-personnel landmines and underscore the importance of upholding various regional and international normative frameworks towards enhancing mine action and for member states to achieve complete clearance from anti-personnel mines. While the majority of Africa countries are state party to the Anti-Personnel Mine Action Convention, according to the concept note circulated for the session ‘16 AU member states are suspected to be contaminated and/or affected directly by anti-personnel mines.’ And 12 AU member states are yet to identify and destroy anti-personnel mines. This also illustrates the gap in norm implementation and the importance of bridging this gap through concerted and collective action as well as global partnership.

To further promote and advance the Convention various instruments have been adopted including the Declaration of States parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (Maputo Declaration). Maputo Declaration has been instrumental in mobilizing commitments among member states on the implementation of time-bound obligation of the destruction of all stockpiled anti-personnel mines by the year 2025. In addition, in line with the five-year Oslo Action Plan adopted in 2019 state parties to the convention committed to design national responses that accommodate the diverse needs and experiences of people in affected communities. Hence, tomorrow’s session presents an opportunity to reflect around the challenges, prospects and risks in relation to compliance and implementation, particularly as the deadline provided in the Maputo declaration is fast approaching.

Indeed, to support member states in meeting the set deadline, the 1032nd PSC session held on 16 September 2021 has requested the AUC to convene an experience sharing and lesson learning session in mine action. It would be of interest to PSC members to request an update around the session. Such forum will also be important to design long term plans for countries affected armed conflict and those in post-conflict situations as well. Anti-personnel land mines have long term effects and continue to kill and injure people even after cessation of hostilities by warring parties. It is thus imperative for countries to develop comprehensive plans for the various stages of conflict situations.

In the same session the PSC had expressed concern over threats related to anti-personnel land mines particularly in relation to the effects of COVID19 on mine action. It has further requested the AUC to integrate mine action into the AU Master Roadmap of Practical Steps to Silencing the Guns in Africa by 2030 and to finalize the Draft AU Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) Mitigation Strategy and submit for Council’s consideration. In this context the AUC may provide update on these processes.

Similarly, it is to be recalled that the 837th PSC session recognizing the risks associated with IED and their devastating impact on civilians, called on ‘Member States to prevent and counter the use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) through integrated and coherent approaches including helping one another, and demand the Commission to continue consultations with Member States to develop the necessary framework in this regard’.

In this regard, the session may highlight the use of IEDs and their serious impact on civilian population. More particularly with the increased level of urbanization coupled with the rise of conflicts in cities, various types of explosive weapons are being used by belligerent parties. The UN Secretary General Report of August 2021 highlighted the complexities around the increased urbanization of conflicts and the catastrophic impact of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. The causalities in these settings are particularly high given population density. According to the report when explosive weapons were used in populated areas, 88% of those killed and injured were civilians, compared with 16% when used in other areas. This is a concerning trend that presenters may highlight given the nature and dynamics of current conflicts.

Another area that is expected to be underscored at the session is the importance of strengthened effort in mine action in humanitarian settings. Explosive ordnance continues to spark complex humanitarian emergencies and high rate of displacement. Population fleeing violence and armed conflict have also been confronted with further danger and risks associated with explosive weapons. Anti-personnel mines have also been a major hindrance for the delivery of life saving assistance and humanitarian action. In this respect ICRC’s intervention is expected to highlight the humanitarian aspect and the effects of weapon contamination on civilian population in armed conflict.

The expected outcome is a communique. The PSC may express concern over the continuing threat of anti-personnel mine and the devastating effects of its use despite the strides made my member states. It may call on member states, in close collaboration and coordination with the AU and Regional Economic Communities/Regional Mechanisms (RECs/RMs) to enhance and revitalize national response to realize the goal set in Maputo Declaration as well as the Oslo Action Plan. The PSC may urge countries that are yet to remove anti-personnel mines in their territories to do so rapidly and to ensure timely reporting on the clearance and demining activities. It may call on for strengthened international partnership to support the complete clearance of AU member states from anti-personnel mine. The PSC may reiterate its previous call for the AUC to convene an exchange forum around mine action and to expedite the finalization of the Draft AU Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) Mitigation Strategy.


Briefing by African Commission on Nuclear Energy (AFCONE) on the implementation of Pelindaba Treaty

Illicit Weapons – Use, Proliferation and Disarmament

Date | 31 March 2022

Tomorrow (31 March), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is expected to convene its 1071st session to receive a briefing by the African Commission on Nuclear Energy (AFCONE) on the implementation of the Pelindaba Treaty.

Permanent Representative of Lesotho to the AU and the Chairperson of the PSC for the month of March, Mafa M. Sejanamane, is expected to make an opening remark. AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), Bankole Adeoye, is also scheduled to make presentation. A briefing by the representative of AFCONE will follow the presentation. The representatives of the United Nations Office to the African Union (UNOAU), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) are also expected to deliver their remarks.

This session is convened within the context of PSC’s request of the AU Commission and the AFCONE, at its 763rd meeting held on 10 April 2018, to annually brief the Council on the ‘status of the implementation of the Pelindaba Treaty and the activities of AFCONE’. The last time Council considered the Treaty was during its 837th session that took place on 4 April 2019 while addressing the broader theme of ‘international disarmament’ with a focus on Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention (APMBC) and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

Tomorrow’s session takes place at a critical time given the current global crisis and the mounting tension between powers that possess nuclear weapons. Even before the outbreak of the war, the global nuclear dynamics has worsened in recent years as global powers arms race has intensified. At its 763rd session, the PSC also noted the ‘slow pace of nuclear disarmament and the rising tensions among nuclear-weapon possessor states’ and its impact in undermining confidence over the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty (NPT). Coming within this global context, members of the Council may reflect on how the Pelindaba Treaty could contribute in advancing global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation agenda, thereby promote international peace and security.

It is to be recalled that the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty Treaty—commonly referred to as the Pelindaba Treaty which is named after South Africa’s central nuclear research complex—is one of the five Treaties on regional Nuclear-Weapons Free-Zones that came within the broader context of global initiative to strengthen the global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation norms. The main objective of this Treaty is to enhance peace and security through the prohibition of the possession and stationing of nuclear weapons across the continent while it encourages the peaceful use of nuclear science and technology. The Treaty was opened for signature in Cairo on 11 April 1996 and entered into force on 15 July 2009 after the deposit of 28th instrument of ratification by Burundi. Three other protocols are also attached to the Treaty to ensure respect of the Treaty by non-African states, notably the Nuclear-Weapon States (NWS).

One of the challenges towards the full implementation of the Treaty likely to be raised in tomorrow’s session is that considerable number of Member States are not still state parties to the Pelindaba Treaty. According to an information note prepared for the session, 11 African countries, namely Central African Republic, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Liberia, Morocco, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sao Tome and Principe, Sudan and Uganda, are not party to the Treaty. South Sudan is yet to accede to the Treaty. The rest 43 African countries have become state parties to the Treaty.

Another issue likely to be highlighted in tomorrow’s session is the synergy and complementarity between the Pelindaba Treaty and other international disarmament and non-proliferation regime most notably the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), as well as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). ICRC’s statement is likely to focus on this issue. As State Parties to some of the treaties that form disarmament and non-proliferation regime will convene during second and third quarters of the year (5th Conference of State Parties to the Pelindaba Treaty in April; 1st Meeting of the State Parties to the TPNW in July; and 10th Review Conference of the NPT in August), this session is an opportune moment to remind Member States to join these instruments.

The other aspect that AFCONE’s briefing may highlight is the use of nuclear science and technology for peaceful purposes including power generation, human health, agriculture, industrial uses and scientific research. The Pelindaba Treaty encourages such peaceful use of nuclear power, but under strict non-proliferation measures. The Council, during its 763rd session also affirmed the ‘inalienable right of all parties to apply chemical, biological and nuclear science and technology for peaceful civilian purposes’. In this regard, nuclear energy is particularly important in Africa where more than 640 million of its 1.2 billion population have no access to electricity and electricity access rate stands just over 40 percent, the lowest in the world, according to African Development Bank report. Addressing this deficit in the continent may require the inclusion of nuclear power as an alternative source of energy.

Given that nuclear power is regarded as clean, reliable and cost-effective source of energy, it is considered to be an attractive option for Africa in its effort to tackle the twin challenges of energy poverty and climate change. It also plays critical role in realizing the developmental aspirations enshrined under Agenda 2063 and UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which in turn enhance the peace and stability of the continent. Despite the enormous benefit that nuclear energy offers, it is only South Africa that has been able to harness the potential through its Koeberg nuclear power plant. Promoting the use of nuclear energy in Africa therefore leaves a lot to be desired.

It is also imperative for Africa to take a more coordinated approach that would strengthen nuclear infrastructure and enhance nuclear expertise and knowledge. In this respect relevant international and regional bodies such as the AFCONE, the African Regional Cooperative Agreement for Research, Development and Training related to Nuclear Science and Technology (AFRA), and IAEA play critical role in providing the required technical support particularly in the areas of developing regulatory frameworks and the human resources, as well as nuclear research and training activities. In its briefing, AFCONE is expected to highlight the activities undertaken in this regard and the challenges faced.

Although key milestones have been achieved paving the way for AFCONE Secretariat to function fully, limited finance has become a major challenge affecting the effectiveness of the institution in discharging its envisaged mandate. This was flagged up by the AFCONE Vice Chairperson, Hadjaro Adam Senoussi, where he stated that ‘significant operationalization of the Secretariat AFCONE, which is critical for the Treaty of Pelindaba to achieve its objective, has not progressed with required speed and efficiency for the reasons explained in the AFCONE reports, particularly the critical budget issue’. The Vice Chairperson further asserted that without the ‘urgent integration of the AFCONE to the AU Institutional Reform Process’ and the ‘designation of a Permanent Executive Secretary and facilitate the appropriate staffing of the Secretariat’, AFCONE cannot sustain its function.

The expected outcome of tomorrow’s session is a communiqué. Among others, Council is expected to express its concern over the nuclear escalation and may call upon all parties not to undermine the objectives and spirit of disarmament and non-proliferation regime. Council may stress the complementarity between the Pelindaba Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) their relevancy to the African Peace and Security Architecture. The Council may further encourage Member States to participate in the upcoming meetings of State Parties to Pelindaba Treaty, NPT and TPNW, and urge them to join the Treaties. Regarding the use of nuclear science and technology for peaceful purposes, Council may encourage Member States to include nuclear power as an option of energy source and fully harness its benefits. Council may re-emphasize the need for the speedy operationalization of AFCONE Secretariat based in South Africa, given its role in the implementation of the Pelindaba Treaty and the promotion of the peaceful application of nuclear science and technology. In this respect, the Council may particularly call on State Parties to the Treaty to fulfil their financial obligations to address the budget challenge.


Briefing on Continental and Regional activities in the area of Mine Action in Africa

Illicit Weapons – Use, Proliferation and Disarmament

Date | 16 September, 2021

Tomorrow (16 September), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is expected to convene its 1032nd session on activities in the area of mine action in the continent.

It is envisaged that following the opening remarks of the PSC Chairperson of the month and Permanent Representative of Chad to the AU, Mahamat Ali Hassan, the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), Bankole Adeoye, will make a statement. It is also expected that the representative of the United Nations Mine Actions Services (UNMAS) will make a presentation. Others expected to make statements include the Chairpersons of the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and Regional Mechanisms (RMs) and the representative of the European Union (EU).

Council emphasized at its 837th session on International Disarmament that antipersonnel mines, explosive remnants of war (ERW) and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) continue to impose serious risk to the lives, safety and health of civilian populations. As highlighted in the Statement of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General (SRSG) to the AU at the commemoration of 2021’s International Day for Mine Awareness, there were 30,000 deaths caused due to the use of explosive weapons recorded in 2019 only, out of which 66% were civilian deaths. In addition to the immediate risk to the life and safety of individuals, mines and ERW also impede social and economic development and stand as serious hindrance to humanitarian action. On the impact for humanitarian work, United Nations (UN) General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 74/80 of December 2019 (A/RES/74/80) stated that the presence of mines and ERW in humanitarian settings impede the delivery of humanitarian assistance, thereby impacting the lives and livelihoods of refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and other members of civilian populations who are dependent on humanitarian aid.

Africa hosts majority of the world’s countries that are highly affected by mines and ERW. While encouraging steps have been taken by multiple African States in ratifying and taking some steps towards implementation of the Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention (APMBC) and other relevant instruments, there is still much that remains to be done. Notably, the number of AU States parties to the APMBC suspected to be contaminated with or affected by anti-personnel mines and ERW has decreased from 30 to 16 States. However, the remaining 16 States are yet to fully meet their obligations related to demining. For instance, according to data presented by the Mine Action Review of 2020, out of eight States parties to the APMBC with regards to which no clearance of anti-personnel mines was recorded for the year 2019, seven were African countries. The same review also indicates that of the nine States parties to the APMBC, which failed to submit their reports on its implementation for the year 2020, seven are African States. In addition, in countries like Mali that confront struggles against armed non-State actors, increased threat from improvised anti-personnel mines has been recorded. This has invoked reasonable concerns over re-proliferation of mines in conflict affected African countries. One of the issues for PSC during tomorrow’s session is how to address these gaps and ensure that States renew their commitments towards full implementation of the APMBC.

Another relevant instrument is the Declaration of States parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (Maputo Declaration). The Maputo Declaration has been instrumental in highlighting the need to expedite demining efforts around the world, thereby setting the year 2025 as a deadline by which member States shall ensure that there are no new mine victims in areas under their jurisdiction or control and that survivors are fully assisted and included in societies on equal basis with others. As the deadline for the implementation of the Maputo Declaration quickly approaches, it is essential for member States of the AU through the leadership of the PSC to reflect on how far they have been able to meet their commitments and how they can strengthen efforts towards meeting the 2025 deadline. Indeed, silencing anti-personnel mines and freeing African countries from landmines should form part of the AU flagship project on Silencing the Guns.

In addition to demining efforts, it is also important to emphasise the importance of taking actions against the production, export and proliferation of landmines and other excessively dangerous weapons. Particularly in light of the rise in illicit proliferation of arms in Africa, it is important for member States to remain cautious and take additional institutional and legal measures against the infiltration of excessively hazardous weapons into their territories. Although some IEDs that are remotely operated are not considered as mines, it is equally as important for States to take all necessary measures to ban the use of these devices and restrict the availability of the chemicals and elements, which are used to locally manufacture them. States also need to abide by their obligations under the APMBC to destroy their mine stockpiles, which impose serious risks including the possibility of diversion and use by unauthorized non-state actors. As experience in some African States, exemplified most recently by the experience of Libya, has indicated in the past, the lack of strict and proper regulation of the flow of arms and importantly their proper stockpiling and management has enabled non-state groups and separatists to obtain mines in black markets at very low prices, in some cases, serving as catalyst for outbreak of conflicts.

Another issue of interest for tomorrow’s session related to the proliferation of mines is the issue of porous borders. In addition to taking measures against production, transfer and storing of mines within their territories, States need to strengthen border security cooperation among them in order to thwart attempts by criminal and terrorist groups to traffic mines and other arms and weapons. In order to protect civilian populations and spare them from the impacts of mines and ERW, States also need to engage in awareness creation campaigns and consider incorporating lessons in their education curriculum, targeting particularly rural communities and refugees and IDPs who are at heightened exposure and risk of mines and ERW.

One of the major constraints that has lagged AU States parties to the APMBC from implementing their commitment under Article 5 to conduct mine clearance activities is the lack of sufficient resources and the decline in donor funding for mine action programmes. This has become particularly more challenging in the context of Covid-19 outbreak, which has forced concerned States to divert most of their resources towards efforts aimed at responding to the pandemic. The AU Mine Action Strategic Framework launched by the AU Commission is aimed at, among others, supporting concerned member States transition to national ownership and financing of their demining efforts. One of the avenues the AU Commission aims to explore in this regard is through providing capacity building trainings for AU Peace Support Operations (PSOs) on management and clearance of explosive hazards. It is important to explore similar approaches and options in order to address the resource barrier faced by concerned member States.

The expected outcome of tomorrow’s session is a press statement. Council may emphasise the serious victimisation of civilians as a result of mines and other dangerous weapons and call on States and other relevant actors to take necessary measures against production, use and transfer of such weapons. The PSC may decide that the monitoring and promotion of the efforts of member states in the clearance of mines and the banning of the production, circulation and use of mines in Africa should be include in the AU Roadmap on Practical Steps for Silencing the Guns in Africa as silencing mines on the ground that threaten the lives and personal security of people is as important as silencing other forms of arms. It may encourage Members States, who haven’t yet done so, to sign, ratify and implement the APMBC as well as the Maputo Declaration. It may urge States who are already parties to the APMBC to take all necessary measures to clear mined areas, assist victims of landmines and ensure timely reporting on their clearance and demining activities in line with Article 7 of the Convention. Member States may also be urged to sign, ratify and implement the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Right on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Africa, as well as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), in order to ensure that survivors of exploded mines are fully assisted. Council may also appeal to international partners to continue their support for States in their mine clearance activities as well as efforts aimed at strengthening border control and weapons regulations. In light of the importance of enhancing cross-border coordination and cooperation to control transfer of mines as well as their use in border areas, Council may call on Member States, who have not yet done so, to accede to and ratify the AU Convention on Cross-Border Cooperation (Niamey Convention). The various RECs/RMs may also be requested to enhance their regional strategies on management of cross-border threats. The AU Commission may be requested to mobilise support, including technical and financial resources, in collaboration with its partners.


Consideration of the Mapping Study on Illicit Arms Flows in Africa 

Illicit Weapons – Use, Proliferation and Disarmament

Date | 18 July, 2019

Tomorrow (18 July) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) will consider the mapping study on illicit arms flow in Africa.

The Peace and Security Department (PSD) and the Small Arms Survey are expected to brief the council and present the main findings of the mapping study. The joint study has been conducted pursuant to the 430th PSC decision that tasked ‘the Commission to undertake a comprehensive study on the flow of illicit weapons into and within Africa and submit to it the outcome of such a study’.

Following this decision the AU Commission, jointly with the Small Arms Survey, has co-organized the inception meeting on mapping illicit arms flows in Africa, in June 2017. The press release at the inception meeting indicated that the study aims at producing data on patterns and trends in arms and ammunition inflows, diversion and illicit circulation, and gaps in control measures. The study also serves to equip the AU, Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and member states with relevant tools to ‘prevent the flow of illegal arms and ammunition into conflict zones, implement evidence-based policies and better measure progress and impact in line with the AU Master Roadmap of Practical Steps to Silence the Guns in Africa by Year 2020’.

The study has been underway over the past two years including the validation by RECs and international experts in 2018. Following tomorrow’s consideration by the PSC, the study will be launched and presented to the various stakeholders in the AU headquarters.

The study is expected to establish a continental data and analysis that identifies regions and countries affected by illicit arms flow and trends in the illicit production, trade, possession, stockpile and circulation of arms. The data and analysis may also identify sources and patterns of movement and circulation of arms. This study is essential given the complexity of the issue and the absence of a continental binding instrument and a dedicated continental mechanism that can monitor trade and illicit arms flows and track their effects on peace and security. Currently the Bamako Declaration on an African Common Position on the Illicit Proliferation, Circulation and Trafficking of Small Arms and Light Weapons is the only existing continental instrument but it only expresses political rather than legal commitment. Hence its implementation and impact has been limited. Additionally, there is not a continent-wide dedicated mechanism for promoting the standards of the Declaration.

The various RECs have established frameworks within their respective regions. Although this is a positive step, it has resulted in parallel legal regimes and made response fragmented. Even in regions that have instruments, implementation is still lacking. The very nature of the flows of illicit weapons necessitates a kind of response that is trans-regional and a standardized continental framework. The fragmented response has also left regions such as the Sahel without an established instrument.

Although the 832nd PSC session underlined the primary responsibility of member states in combating illicit circulation of arms, however their capacities are limited. A related challenge is the porous nature of the boarders of many African countries and their inability to regulate their peripheral territories. Member states’ limited capacity and resources in putting in place effective administrative and institutional measures for safe stockpiling of arms has affected the safekeeping and control of arms. In this regard there is a need for the AUC to provide guidance and technical support on ways member states adequately monitor and track illicit arms as well as produce reports on their efforts and the challenges that are encountered as a follow up to the various calls of the PSC for receiving reports from member states. Hence institutional support to member states for the development of national strategy and reporting will enable relevant national institutions in discharging their roles for effective control of flow of arms.

Previous PSC sessions have made reference to the linkages between the proliferation and illicit flows of arms on the one hand and terrorism, organized crime and financing of terrorist groups. Additionally, there is a need to recognize the increased transnational nature of conflicts and how weak border control leads to porous borders that allows free movement of traffickers of arms across national borders.

Flows and circulation of illicit arms are particularly critical in conflict affected countries and post-conflict situations. The absence of effective implementation of DDR and SSR enables the proliferation of armed groups and the flow of illicit weapons, hampering cessation of hostilities and peace building processes. It may also contribute to potential relapse to violence by compromising gains made in restoring peace and security.

The PSC may also follow up on its previous decision at the 832nd, which requested ‘the Commission to consider organizing a forum for the AU to constructively engage with weapons manufacturers’. Apart from being a shared area of interest for the UN Security Council (UNSC), this international dimension of the illicit manufacturing, trade and transfer to Africa of small arms and light weapons also necessitates developing close coordination and joint approach with the UNSC. The risks and challenges associated with illicit flow of arms have been regularly debated at the UNSC.

The UN Secretary-General submits biennial report on small arms and light weapons to UNSC. In the Resolution 2220 (2015), the Security Council requested the SG to continue to submit to the Council on a biennial basis a report on the issue of small arms and light weapons. Following this decision the SG has submitted its fifth report in December 2017. In this context, the growing concern over the increased links between transnational organized crime, illicit small-arms trafficking and terrorism as well as emerging technologies for illicit trafficking and production has received attention.

The expected outcome of the session is a communiqué. It may express concern over illicit small arms and light weapons within the continent and from the outside. It may commend the AUC and Small Arms Survey for leading on the development of the continental mapping study on illicit arms flows in Africa. It may call on member states in strengthening their monitoring and control mechanisms and may urge for enhanced cooperation among countries and with relevant international bodies. The PSC is also expected to adopt the recommendations of the study and call for their implementation. In its deliberation the council may call for standardization of the norms and approaches of RECs for a more harmonized and coordinated approach. In terms of targeted action within the framework of the AU Roadmap on Silencing the Guns as well, the implementation of measures directed at countries most affected by illicit circulation and trade of small and light weapons such as Libya. The PSC could also emphasize issues related to partnership and international cooperation in tracing illicit flows and movement of arms, capacity building to member states for arms and ammunition management and information sharing including through the UNSC.


Open Session on Protection of civilians against the use of explosive weapons in populated  areas

Illicit Weapons – Use, Proliferation and Disarmament

Date | 17 July, 2019

Tomorrow (17 July) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) will hold an open session on the protection of civilians against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
During the session it is expected that the Permanent Representative of Mozambique to UN Office in Geneva, representatives of the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) will deliver their presentations. AU Peace and Security Department is also expected to make a statement.

The adverse effect of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas (EWIPA) has been a widely recognized challenge causing harm to civilians in conflicts. As indicated in the concept note, civilians are the overwhelming majority constituting 90% of victims during the use of wide-area effects explosive weapons in populated areas. Weapons designed to spread a wide effect or lacking precision when launched, often times lead to civilian suffering. In a time where violence and conflicts are increasingly taking place in populated cities instead of remote areas, the impact of the use of such weapons rises exponentially.

Beyond the immediate impact, the effects have long-term consequences in terms of the destruction of infrastructure, education and health facilities heavily affecting the coping capacity of communities. Particularly in the context of protracted conflicts, EWIPA may also delay or complicate conflict reconstruction and peace building processes.

With the increased level of urbanization coupled with the rise of conflicts in cities, various types of explosive weapons are being used such as mines, anti-personnel mines, missiles and grenades both by national military forces and armed groups. The AU has demonstrated commitment in the fight against the use of anti-personnel mines. 51 African member states have ratified the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention (Ottawa Treaty). The 837th PSC session recognizing the risks associated with improvised explosive device (IED) and their devastating impact on civilians, called on ‘Member States to prevent and counter the use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) through integrated and coherent approaches including helping one another, and demand the Commission to continue consultations with Member States to develop the necessary framework in this regard’.

Moreover, the protection of civilians has been a key priority to the AU as it is articulated in various policy instruments and deliberations. The AU provides a comprehensive definition to the protection of civilians. The Draft Guidelines for the protection of civilians in PSOs identified four tiers or dimensions of protection: protection through political process; physical protection; rights-based protection; and establishing a secure environment.

A dedicated regional meeting on Protecting Civilians from the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas was also held in November 2017. In the communiqué of the meeting states highlighted that they ‘support the process that will lead to the negotiation and adoption of an international political declaration on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas’. The meeting although aimed at forming a group of African States that can actively support the development of the declaration, thus far only Senegal and Mozambique have participated in the diplomatic process. The two countries will represent Africa in the Core Group that will be leading on the development of the declaration. Following the upcoming October 2019 conference in Vienna, the declaration is expected to be adopted in Dublin in 2020.

Similarly the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres in his annual report on the protection of civilians in May 2019 called on member states to join the political process.

Across the continent EWIPA is further exacerbated by the increasing flow of illicit arms. The 788 session of the PSC highlighted that flow of ‘small arms and light weapons (SALW), to non-state actors contributes significantly towards exacerbating insecurity and violence in various parts of Africa, thereby undermining social cohesion, public security, socio-economic development and the effective functioning of state institutions’.

Presenters particularly the ICRC may highlight and provide an overview of the humanitarian dimension of the use of EWIPA, including the failure of such weapons to meet the international humanitarian law principles of distinction and proportionality. The destruction of homes and basic infrastructure the use of EWIPA coupled with a lack of access to basic services, lead to forced displacement of civilians. The delivery of humanitarian aid is often times hampered by destruction of roads, preventing access to life saving assistance and basic services. Hence, beyond the direct impact on people it affects the entire system of particular area or a country. Within the context of 2019 theme on Refugees, IDPs and Returnees the interventions may further highlight the linkages with forced displacement and the challenges associated with returns due to the destruction of homes and livelihoods.

INEW’s intervention may elaborate on the distinctive pattern of harm caused to civilians by the use of EWIPA. Given its role in the development of the political declaration, it may provide further details on the progress made thus far and next steps. It may also elaborate on why such a declaration is needed and how it can serve as a guiding framework for member states in their efforts in designing policies and in effectively responding to the security threat. The declaration may explicitly address issues related to harm of civilians due to the use of EWIPA and it may also pay particular attention on the mechanisms to ensure protection of civilians.

The representative of Mozambique may highlight the key outcomes of the Maputo regional meeting and elaborate on the country’s role and contribution in articulating a global political commitment anchored by provisions in existing African instruments.

The expected outcome of the session is a press statement. The PSC in the outcome document may recommend key actions and next steps towards mitigating harm and ensuring the full protection of civilians. It may commend Mozambique and Senegal for their leadership in contributing to the process of developing the political declaration. It may call on member states to strengthen their efforts by utilizing existing regional and international instruments. It may also call for a greater respect for international humanitarian law to reduce suffering of civilians.


Sensitisation Session on International Disarmament

Illicit Weapons – Use, Proliferation and Disarmament

Date | 04 April, 2019

Tomorrow (4 April) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) will hold a sensitization session on International Disarmament with a focus on the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention (Ottawa Treaty) and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). The concept note of this 837th meeting envisages that tomorrow’s session will be an open one.

Executive Secretary of the African Commission on Nuclear Energy (AFCONE) and the Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) Beatrice Fihn are expected to brief the Council. The Commissioner of Peace and Security and the Defense and Security Division (DSD) will also deliver a statement. Additionally, statements are also expected from invited participants including Norway as the President of the Mine Ban Treaty for 2019 and host of the fourth review conference of the treaty. A statement will also be delivered by the Chair of the month, Ambassador Bankole Adeoye of Nigeria.

The session aims at generating awareness and reinvigorating commitment for the implementation of the two instruments. The Ottawa Treaty came into force in March 1999 with the central objective of eliminating anti-personnel land mines (AP-mines) globally. Currently 51 African member states have ratified the treaty. The review of the Treaty has taken place every five years, the last one was held in 2014 in Maputo, which also marked the 15th anniversary of the entry into force of the treaty. Consequently the Maputo Action Plan (2014-2019) was adopted with clear commitments on the implementation of time-bound obligation of the destruction of all stockpiled anti-personnel mines by the year 2025. The fourth review conference is scheduled for November 2019 in Oslo, which will mark the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Convention.

The concept note of the session indicates that despite the commitments of African member states both at the global and regional levels and the progress that has been made over the years, 13 AU Member States remain affected by mines, while 4 have not completed the destruction of their stockpiles. The anti-personnel land mines continue to kill and injure people even after cessation of hostilities by warring parties. Member states are continuously facing challenges due to armed groups increased use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) compounded with Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) threat particularly in Peace Support Operations context.

Although there has not been regular PSC briefing on AP-mines, at the AUC level the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action has been observed in past on 4 April. Moreover, previously the AU developed and launched the Mine Action and Explosive Remnants of War Strategic Framework project document for the period 2014-2017. The session may serve as a reminder of existing initiatives, which require renewed commitments and to commemorate the International Day.

The other instrument that will be discussed extensively is the TPNW and its implementation in line with the African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty (the Treaty of Pelindaba). The TPNW was adopted in July 2017 by 122 UN Member States, including 42 African countries, as a global instrument banning nuclear weapons. Despite such efforts, currently a total of 50 ratifications are needed to bring the treaty into force and only 22 countries have ratified including two African countries. Thus far, there are 70 signatories and 22 ratifications of the TPNW.

From Africa, while 20 AU member states are signatories, only South Africa and The Gambia have ratified this treaty. Botswana, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Sudan and Tanzania have expressed their intention to ratify the treaty. Given the leadership that African states demonstrated through the Pelindaba Treaty banning the proliferation of nuclear weapons with ratification from 41 AU member states, tomorrow’s session may serve as an opportunity for AU member states to take Africa’s commitment to the international level by mobilizing the ratification of the TPNW as a means of strengthening the international legal regime aiming at outlawing nuclear weapons.

This session that can help in the effort for strengthening multilateral regulation of nuclear weapons is very timely, taking place as the tension at the global level is heightened. With the withdrawal of the US and Russia from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, the lack of talks between the two countries for extending the 2010 treaty that reduced nuclear warheads, there are increasing fears of nuclear arms race, which threatens the TPNW. There are also risks in other fronts including around upholding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action also known as the Iran Nuclear Deal due to the withdrawal of the US, the collapse of the talks between the US and North Korea and the recent escalation of tension between India and Pakistan are all concerns that the PSC members may raise as existential threats of global stability.

In the midst of these challenges Africa remains committed in maintaining a nuclear weapon free zone. The AU Chairperson and head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have signed a four-year agreement (2018-2022), an agreement on a safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear technologies for development in Africa. At the 763rd PSC session held in April 2018, the Council ‘reaffirmed its commitment to disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful use of nuclear energy, as enshrined in the AU Constitutive Act and the Protocol relating to the establishment of the PSC’. In the same decision the Council ‘requested the AU Commission and the AFCONE to provide annual briefing to the PSC on the status of the implementation of the Pelindaba Treaty and the activities of AFCONE’. The latter was established by the Pelindaba Treaty to monitor compliance of member states in the use of nuclear science and technology for peaceful purposes and development.

As indicated in the concept note the session may also shed light on the fact although the continent is a nuclear weapon free zone, the global threats and use of nuclear weapons will have severe humanitarian impact on Africa and may reverse the development gains made. It may also make the case for the massive global expenditure on nuclear weapons amounting to close to US$105 billion annually to be channeled for global development and cooperation. The discussions may also highlight the efforts of countries including Nigeria and South Africa, who facilitated the initial resolution that led to the establishment of the UN Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) and continue to engage in the implementation of the treaty.

The expected outcome is a press statement. Tomorrow’s PSC meeting will hold a comprehensive discussion and deliberation given that it will be covering two interlinked instruments and processes that have immense impact globally and for the continent. The PSC may reiterate its commitment to nuclear weapons disarmament non-proliferation and cooperation in the peaceful application of nuclear science and technology. The Council may highlight the existential risks and humanitarian consequences of nuclear detonation would have on the continent. Hence, it may call on member states to ratify the TPNW to ensure that it enters into force. The PSC may also urge for the full implementation of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, the realization of the Maputo 2025 Commitment and for international partners to support the complete clearance of AP mines in Africa. The PSC may also call on the AU Commission to convene a meeting of AU member states for an African common position for the fourth review conference of the Ottawa Treaty.


Briefing on the proliferation of small arms and light weapons

Illicit Weapons – Use, Proliferation and Disarmament

Date | 14 March, 2019

Tomorrow (14 March) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is scheduled to receive a briefing on the proliferation of small arms and light weapons and its impact on the AU plan for Silencing the Guns in Africa by the Year 2020. The PSC is expected to receive briefing from the Regional Centre on Small Arms (RECSA). The AU Peace and Security Department (PSD), particularly its division on Defense and Security is expected to brief. Regional Economic Communities/Regional Mechanisms are also expected to share their experiences.

The session is initiated by Kenya as the Chair of the month and host of RECSA. As the concept note for the session developed by Kenya indicates, the aim is to identify concrete actions to address the proliferation and circulation of illicit weapons and ammunition in line with the provisions of AU Master Roadmap on Silencing the Guns. The concept note makes reference to the Silencing the Guns Continental Plan of Action (STG-PoA) that is currently being developed by the African Union Commission (AUC) as a framework to operationalize the Master Roadmap. The briefing will also offer an overview of the success and challenges of the efforts undertaken against the proliferation of illicit weapons by particularly focusing on the Horn of Africa and Great Lakes region. At its 778th session the PSC stated that ‘illicit flow of arms, particularly small arms and light weapons (SALW), to non-state actors contributes significantly towards various parts of Africa’. exacerbating insecurity and violence in Following its 824th meeting held on February 5 2019, the Council, in a press statement, emphasized the centrality of national institutions in the fight against the proliferation of SALW and further urged ‘Member States to invest more in building and further strengthening their capacities to effectively safeguard national stockpiles of weapons, with a view to preventing weapons and ammunition from falling into wrong hands’.

Building on this, the session is expected to discuss the role of regional organizations and inter-state coordination in mitigating the proliferation and accumulation of illicit arms. AU peace and security frameworks including the Silencing the Guns Roadmap recognize the role of RECs/RMs to design and monitor tailored policy instruments that addresses the specific security situation in their respective regions.

In line with the session’s objective, the briefing by RECSA may provide an overview of the impact of flow of illicit arms and gaps in control measures on peace, stability and development. RECSA’s intervention is expected to shed light on the recent political developments in the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes regions and their impact in fostering regional cooperation to eradicate illicit flows of arms and weapons. It may also make reference to the UN Program of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspect and the Nairobi Protocol for the Prevention, Control and Reduction of Small Arms and Light Weapons in the Great Lakes Region and the Horn of Africa in order to identify practical steps towards accountability and regulation of non-states actors possession SALW.

The briefing from PSD may highlight challenges around regulatory frameworks, including the lack of protection and management of stockpiles which often lead to diversion of legally sourced arms by illegal non-state actors. The intervention may emphasize on the importance of compliance with international and regional legally binding instruments, including the universal ratification and implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty, as well as the need to strengthen national legislations and institutions. PSD may also speak on the draft AU policy for the management of recovered arms and ammunitions in peace support operations.

The Assembly decision Assembly/AU/Dec. 645 (XXIX) adopted by the 29th Ordinary Session of the AU, has declared the month of September of each year until 2020, as “Africa Amnesty Month” for the surrender and collection of illegally owned weapons and arms. During the commemoration in September 2018 the PSC has urged RECs/RMs to submit reports to the Council, through the AU Commission, on the actions taken in line with the Africa Amnesty Month.

The AUC has also been leading on the development of technical and operational guidelines by the Council to inform national and regional efforts in undertaking activities under the Africa Amnesty Month and a compendium of the success stories and best practices across the continent in implementing voluntary disarmament programs. The PSD may provide status update on the development of such instruments and on following up on national measures.

PSC members may discuss the increased link between the circulation of small arms, terrorism and proliferation of rebel armed movements. The UNSC resolution 2457 on Silencing the Guns in Africa adopted on 27 February 2019 underscored ‘the need for effective implementation of relevant arms control and disarmament instruments and regimes as well as arm embargoes imposed by the United Nations Security Council’. The PSC may urge member states and regional organizations to take measurable actions against the proliferation of illicit weapons and arms, including through the strengthening the criminal justice response and enhancing law enforcement institutions. The PSC may also follow on UNSC resolution 2457, urging international actors to take specific measures of cooperation including in terms of effective regulation of the sale and movement of small arms and light weapons and supporting the sanctioning of illicit flows.

At the time of production of this insight the form that the outcome of the session takes was unknown. The PSC could consider urging member states to strengthen their capacities to vigorously monitor and protect national stockpiles of weapons and recover illegally owned arms. The Council may also call on RECs/RMs to complement the efforts of member states and assist them in developing and implementing national action plans and regional cooperation to curb illicit proliferation of arms. The PSC may reiterate its previous decision by urging compliance with international and regional legal frameworks and task the AU Commission to submit a report on the trends and dynamics of illicit flow of small arms and light weapons and progress made and challenges faced in implementing continentally and regionally agreed measures. The PSC may call on member states in transition from conflict to undertake sustainable disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programs to prevent relapse to violence and conflict.


Illicit flow and financing of arms in Africa

Illicit Weapons – Use, Proliferation and Disarmament

Date | 23 May, 2018

Illicit flow and financing of arms in Africa: Sources of conflict and impediment to silencing the guns’

Tomorrow (24 May) the Peace and Security Council (PSC) will have a briefing session on the theme of ‘Illicit flow and financing of arms in Africa: Sources of conflict and impediment to silencing the guns’. The PSC is expected to receive a briefing from the Regional Centre on Small Arms (RECSA) and the AU Peace and Security Department (PSD), particularly its division on Defense and Security. Others who will participate in this session include members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) and representatives of Regional Economic Communities/Regional Mechanisms (RECs/RMs).

This session is convened within the framework of the 430th meeting of the AU Peace and Security Council, held on 24 April 2014 under the theme ‘Silencing the Guns: Pre-requisites for Realising a Conflict-Free Africa by the Year 2020’ which identified the curbing of illicit flow of light and small weapons as one of the measures requested for achieving the AU agenda of silencing the guns by 2020. As reflected in the agenda for this session, this session is designed to support the efforts of the AU to achieve its aim of silencing the guns and adopt decisions identifying measures that help in preventing illicit flow of arms and its financing.

One of the aims of the session is to understand current dynamics in the flow of arms and their financing in Africa. The briefing from RECSA is expected to provide insights on patterns and trends in arms and ammunition inflows, illicit circulation, and gaps in control measures. It is in particular expected to share the experience of the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes regions in terms of both the challenges these regions face due to illicit flows and financing of arms and the measures being taken to address these challenges.

The briefing from PSD is expected to highlight the role of illicit flow of arms in fueling and sustaining conflicts, in the displacement of peoples, in disrupting development efforts and the scale and nature of casualties inflicted on civilians. In this regard, mention can be made of how the illicit flow of arms from Libya in the aftermath of the collapse of Col Gadhafi’s regime fueled the conflict in Mali and the surge in acts of terrorism and groups engaged in such acts in the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin regions of Africa. It is also worth noting that the changing character of conflicts in Africa that witnessed the proliferation of small and poorly organized militias, insurgents, terrorist groups and criminal networks is partly attributed to easy access to illicit flow of weapons.

At the AU level, the policy framework that serves as point of departure is the ‘African Common Position on illicit circulation, proliferation and trafficking of small and light weapons’ (SALW), also known as the Bamako Declaration of 2000. This declaration commits member states to identify, seize and destroy illicit weapons. In January 2017, the AU Assembly adopted the AU Master Roadmap on Practical Steps to Silence the Guns by 2020. As a follow up to this master roadmap, in September 2017 the PSC declared the month of September an amnesty month for the Surrender and Collection of Illicit Weapons. As noted in our ‘Insight’ on the PSC Field Mission to Sudan, Darfur, one of the stabilization efforts being implemented in Darfur is the collection of weapons.

At sub-regional levels, important normative and institutional developments have taken place, including with the adoption of binding treaties. These include the 2001 SADC Protocol, the 2004 Nairobi Protocol for the Great Lakes Region, the Horn of Africa and Bordering States, the 2006 ECOWAS Convention, and the 2010 Central Africa Convention.

Member states of the PSC would expectedly share their experiences with respect to illicit flow and circulation of weapons as well as its consequences and their efforts to address the threat that illicit flow and circulation of SLWPs poses. In terms of the efforts of the AU, it would be of interest to PSC member states to know why illicit flow and circulation of weapons persist despite the various legal and institutional regimes put in place and the various interventions both at AU and regional levels.

For PSC member states and the wider AU system, this session presents an opportunity not only to take stock of the policy and institutional architecture but also the steps that are required for both enhancing the effectiveness of the legal and institutional regime for curbing illicit flow of SALW and implementing practical measures for countering illicit flow and circulation of SALW at national, regional, continental and global levels. With respect to the legal and institutional regimes, one of the major challenges remains to be non-ratification and lack of adherence to the measures stipulated in the various regional conventions. The universal ratification and implementation of these legal instruments is thus necessary. Regional level efforts should include the strengthening of the legaland security measures for cracking down entry pointes and trafficking routs, arms dealers, including the activities of brokers and the sources of financing of the illicit flow, sell and circulation of SALW.

There is a need for regionally targeted approach to the challenge of illicit flows. The nature of the problem and its manifestations are not the same in the different regions of the continent. It is necessary in this regard that targeted interventions are designed and implemented in collaboration with RECs/RMs for parts of the continent most affected by the illicit flow and use of illicit weapons or arms. The measures to be taken in this regard include not only the strengthening of control measures and coordination between member states but also implementation of programs for collection of weapons and for the effectives physical security and management of stockpiles.

At the national level, issues that need attention include corruption and the strengthening of the regulatory measures for effective control, management and protection of SALW. Indeed, weak regulatory framework, including poor protection and management of stockpiles, and corruption often lead to diversion of legally sourced arms through leakages and raids by illegal non-state actors.

Given the global dimension of the movement and circulation of arms, the agenda for this session recognizes the need for the AU to work with international actors. In this respect, the agenda envisages a plan for the PSC, through its Chair with the support of the African members of the UNSC (A3) and the AU Commission, to brief the UNSC on Africa’s efforts for silencing the guns with a view to have a UNSC resolution calling on different arms producing countries to implement arms certification, including end user certification. Another avenue for effective follow up is the expected review of the UN Program of Action on small arms during 2018. The PSC can articulate African common position on this review addressing issues including transparency in small arms production and sell, the obligation of tight regulation and accountability measures by producing countries of the transfer of SALW and weapons registers as well as standardization of certification.
The expected outcome of the session is a communiqué.


Nuclear Energy, non-proliferation and disarmament

Illicit Weapons – Use, Proliferation and Disarmament

Date | 10 April, 2018

Non-proliferation

Tomorrow (10 April 2018) The PSC will receive a briefing on nuclear energy, non-proliferation and disarmament. The session will discuss the prohibition of nuclear weapons in Africa, and the status of the Pelindaba Treaty, and increasing Africa’s global role and contribution for a nuclear free world by strengthening its non-proliferation efforts. Apart from the Commission for Peace and Security, the PSC is expected to receive briefing from the Executive Secretary of the African Commission on Nuclear Energy (AFCONE).
The meeting builds on the 29 March 2016 report of the AU Chairperson to the PSC on Arms Control, Disarmament and Non-Proliferation. The session is taking place less than a month after the fourth ordinary session of the conference of the state parties to the treaty of Palendaba that took place on 14-15 March 2018 in Addis Ababa. The meeting reviewed the status of the implementation of the African Nuclear Weapons Free Zone treaty, known as the Pelindaba Treaty, which serves as the African legal and political regime for non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Pelindaba that was adopted in 1996 entered into force on 15 July 2009. To date it is signed by 52 members of the AU and ratified and deposited by 41 member states. Beyond prohibiting the possession, use and threatening to use nuclear weapons, the agreement also sanctions undertaking, assisting or encouraging the testing of nuclear weapons.

The concerns and focus of the PSC meeting lies at issues of uranium trading, nuclear testing and the safety of using nuclear energy for civilian purposes. The PSC is expected to discuss the status the operationalization of the Algiers based African regulatory body AFCONE which oversees the implementation of the Pelindaba treaty. The meeting will also examine the two-year program and budget for AFCONE adopted by the March meeting. The program from 2018-2020 will a have a special focus on safeguarding nuclear material, enhancing the accounting and control mechanism, and upgrading verification and monitoring activities of the AFCONE. In the post Fukushima era, AFCONE will also be working on the safety of radioactive waste management and regulating the peaceful application of nuclear energy.

The increased capacity, visibility and mobility of multinational and cross border terrorist groups and networks, and the easy accessibility of the nuclear knowhow and technology is a major concern for the continent. The council will discuss this major security threat tomorrow. Africa has one of the biggest deposits of uranium in the world. A single member state, Namibia alone holds about 7% of the world’s uranium reserves. The country supplies the mineral to nuclear power stations around the world. Niger, South Africa, Botswana and the DRC also have reserves or produce uranium. The threat of non-state actors holding the possession of uranium and its illicit trafficking is a major security threat the PSC is expected to address.
Africa is a nuclear weapon free zone. South Africa was the only country on the continent to had the possession of nuclear weapons. It had its nuclear weapon by the end of the 1970s and had a total of six bombs by the time it decided to end its nuclear weapons program and dismantle the weapons in the early 1990’s. The abolition of all the nuclear weapons was later confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). At the moment, South Africa is also the only African country on the continent with a nuclear power plant. The plant provides around 5% of its electricity production. In recent years however, several other member states of the African Union have signed agreements or shown interest to use of nuclear power to generate electricity. The most notable ones include Egypt, Nigeria and Ethiopia. In 2013 Egypt announced its plan to build 1,000 MW nuclear reactor for power generation and on October 2017, Russian state-owned company Rosatom signed a deal to build two nuclear power plants in Nigeria with the cost of around $20bn. In 2013, the Ethiopian government announced it targets generating up to 1,200 Megawatts of electricity from nuclear energy. And in March 2018 Ethiopia signed memorandum of understanding on cooperation in peaceful uses of atomic energy with Russian Nuclear Technology Agency. Other countries like Algeria, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Morocco, Namibia, Senegal, Sudan, Tunisia, and Uganda, have a serious and publicly expressed plans to go nuclear for power.

The increasing trend and interest in the use of nuclear power plants on the continent demand a proper regulatory framework, monitoring mechanisms and accountably and control. On 15 February, the AU Chairperson and head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) signed a four-year agreement (2018-2022), an agreement on a safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear technologies for development in Africa. Beyond the development of nuclear power infrastructure, the cooperation includes areas like health, agriculture, environment and industrial applications of nuclear technology. Building Africa’s capacity in radiation and nuclear safety and security is also part of the four-year deal. The PSC will discuss the details of the agreement.

Africa is aspiring to be a major actor in the global non-proliferation regime. The PSC meeting is taking place at a time where the most prominent international nuclear deal, the Iran Nuclear Deal of October 2015 between Iran and the P5 plus Germany and the EU faces its biggest challenge. The AU Chairperson hailed the agreement as ‘triumph for multilateral diplomacy and a vindication of the principle of peaceful and negotiated resolution of international disputes’ in a press statement on 15 October 2015, a day after the signing of the deal. The AU also expressed its support to the deal and its proper implementation. Tomorrow’s PSC meeting will discuss global trends and updates on international and regional efforts towards nuclear weapons disarmament non-proliferation and cooperation in the peaceful application of nuclear science and technology.

The expected outcome of tomorrow’s PSC session is a communiqué. It is expected that the PSC would welcome the role of AFCON. It would also emphasized the need for coordination among AU actors including member states to address current threats relating to threat of possession and illicit-trafficking of uranium by non-state actors. The PSC is also anticipated to affirm AU’s firm support for the Iran Nuclear Deal and to urge that the parties to the deal to maintain their commitment to the terms of the agreement.