Commemoration of the 2021 Africa Amnesty Month

AU Initiatives

Date | 08 September, 2021

Tomorrow (8 September) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is expected to convene its 1029th session to commemorate the Africa Amnesty Month. Representatives of all AU Member States, Regional Economic Communities and Regional Mechanisms (RECs/RMs), and the international community in Addis Ababa are expected to participate in this open session.

The PSC Chair for the month and Permanent Representative of Chad to the AU, Mahamat Ali Hassan will be delivering opening remarks. The Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), Bankole Adeoye, as well as the representatives of the United Nations (UN) and the Regional Centre on Small Arms in the Great Lakes Region, the Horn of Africa and Bordering States (RECSA) are expected to make presentations.

The PSC has been convening annual sessions to commemorate Amnesty Month since 2017, following the decision of the Assembly during its 29th Ordinary Session to declare the month of September of each year, until 2020, as ‘Africa Amnesty Month for the surrender and collection of illicit small arms and light weapons’. It is initiated as an occasion for drawing attention to the challenge of small arms and weapons as major drivers of conflicts on the continent and for promoting the surrender and control of illicit arms and weapons. The 14th Extra Ordinary Session of the AU Assembly held on 6 December 2020 on Silencing the Guns extended the commemoration and conduct of Amnesty Month until 2030. As Commissioner Bankole stated in his statement for the launch of the Africa Amnesty Month 2021, ‘this September is yet another golden opportunity for anyone who owns an illegal gun to surrender it to their national authorities’.

One of the focuses of tomorrow’s session is expected to be the consideration of the compendium developed by the Commission, which highlights best practices and challenges in the implementation of the African Amnesty Month. This is in line with PSC’s request of the Commission, at its 943rd session, to conduct a lessons-learned study and submit to the Council in the course of 2020 for its consideration.

Beyond commemoration, tomorrow’s session is also an opportunity to take stock of the implementation of the Amnesty Month initiative and remaining challenges, and reflect on how to move the initiative forward in the next 10 years. The occasion is largely symbolic. But tomorrow’s session can also examine the need for and the ways for addressing the challenge of illicit arms and weapons, among others, drawing on the compendium on ‘African Union Member States’ Experiences in Voluntary Surrender of Civilian Firearms’. The session can also consider how to follow up the recommendation of the 2019 mapping study on the illicit small arms flows in Africa.

It is also to be recalled that the Amnesty Month initiative led to the joint project initiated by the AU and the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) last year. As an implementing partner of the project, the presentation by RECSA is expected to shed light on the supports provided to interested member states in sensitization and awareness campaigns and collection and destruction of illicit SALW, as well as training of law enforcement officials. One aspect the presentation is expected to highlight is the growing number of member states joining the project since last year. In 2020, the project succeeded in bringing seven member states on board, namely Burkina Faso, Cameroon, CAR, DRC, Ethiopia, Kenya and Cote d’Ivoire. More member states have expressed interest this year including Madagascar, Niger, The Gambia, and Uganda. Furthermore, the project reportedly supported the collection of some 3,500 SALW in 2020, though this is only fraction of the staggering 40 million illicit arms/weapons circulating in the hands of civilians in Africa.

Disarmament programmes yet remain the most effective means for Amnesty programmes to deliver better results in collecting illicit arms and weapons. There are encouraging steps in this regard including the most recent one in Nigeria where Boko Haram and Islamic State of West Africa Province terrorists started to surrender en masse last month. The controversy that sparked following the amnesty for ‘repentant’ terrorists also highlighted the delicate tightrope between ending conflicts and justice for victims.

There are plethora of regional and global legal instruments relating to SALW, but AU is yet to develop a consolidated and binding legal instrument on the area that responds to the unique contexts and realities of Africa. One of the issues the Council is expected to take practical steps in the years ahead is developing a comprehensive continental legal framework on illicit flow of arms and weapons.

The Amnesty Month initiative also contributed to support measures to strengthening institutional and human capacities of member states in the areas of stockpile management, record keeping and tracing, and the destruction of illicit firearms. Diversions from national stockpiles remain a big challenge for many African countries. As highlighted in the mapping study on illicit small arms flows in Africa, the massive national stockpile diversion due to the crises in Libya, Mali and CAR not only intensified armed conflicts in these countries and beyond but also became significant source of material for terrorist groups. The other big challenge is illicit inflow of firearms into the continent. The study reveals in this regard the ‘robust trend’ in the involvement of Middle Eastern states in illicit arms transfers to Africa. But most of all, trafficking across the borders of Africa remains the main source of illicit arms on the continent, further exacerbated by the porous nature of African borders. These challenges not only require strengthened national law enforcement agencies but also highlights the need to promote the greater use of AU mechanisms such as the AU Mechanism for Police Cooperation (AFRIPOL) and Committee of Intelligence and Security Service (CISSA).

The expected outcome is a press statement. Among others, the Council may welcome the contributions of the African Amnesty Month initiative over the past few years and may stress on sustaining the gains and redouble efforts towards the significant reduction of illicit SALW circulating in hands of non-state actors in Africa. The Council may reiterate Commissioner Bankole’s statement issued for this year commemoration which appealed to ‘all the citizens of the African Union Member States who are in possession of illicit firearms’ to surrender them to national authorities. The Council may further reiterate its call at its 716th, 793rd, and 943rd sessions for the Commission to effectively engage African civil society including the youth and women, non-governmental organizations, think tanks, faith-based organizations to actively participate and contribute to the surrender of arms during the Amnesty Month. The Council may particularly appeal to the media to actively engage in the advocacy of the need for surrendering of firearms in the hands of civilians, reiterating Bankole’s statement on the launch of this year Amnesty Month. The Council may also echo its 832nd session in encouraging the Commission to closely work with the RECs/RMs in popularizing the Amnesty Month to bring about tangible results in the collection of illegal firearms. On challenges relating to illicit flow of arms, the Council is likely to reiterate its previous call for member states to strengthen their national legal and institutional frameworks that would enhance stockpile management, arms marking and record keeping, as well as border security. In light of the worrying trend of illicit inflow of arms into Africa, the Council may particularly reiterate its decision to ‘name and shame suppliers, brokers and recipients of illicit arms/weapons in Africa’. Taking this further, the PSC could mandate the AU Commission to develop a legal framework with a monitoring and enforcement mechanism for the control of the importation and circulation of illicit arms in Africa. The PSC may finally underscore the importance of addressing the root causes driving illicit firearms by non-state actors and explore ways in which AU’s existing Peace and Security as well as Governance Architectures can be utilized in this context.


Insights on the Peace & Security Council - PSC VTC Session on Silencing the Guns in Africa

AU Initiatives

Date | 17, November 2019

Tomorrow (17 November) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is expected to hold its session to discuss the status of implementation of the “AU Master Roadmap for Practical Steps to Silence the Guns in Africa by Year 2020” and the “AU Theme of the Year 2020: Silencing the Guns in Africa – Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development”. The session is scheduled to be held through VTC.

The Director for the Department of Peace and Security, Admore Kambudzi, is expected to present a briefing on the session’s agenda. This is expected to share the review of the implementation of the Master Roadmap and the progress made, if any, and challenges relating to the theme of the year on silencing the guns in Africa. Tomorrow’s session serves as an occasion for taking stock of the theme of the year and to reflect on the revision of the Master Roadmap, as 2020 is coming to an end. It is also to be recalled that preparations are underway for the convening of an extraordinary summit dedicated to the theme of the year in December. For PSC members, this is a session for preparing for and reflecting on the issues that will inform the extraordinary summit.

Silencing the Guns is one of the flagship projects of Agenda 2063 of the AU. It provides the overarching objective guiding the efforts of the organization in ensuring a peaceful and secure Africa which is the foundation for the implementation of Agenda 2063. It is to be recalled that AU member states made a solemn commitment as part of the Solemn Declaration of the 50th Anniversary of the O/AU, “to achieve the goal of a conflict-free Africa, to make peace a reality for all our people and to rid the continent of wars, civil conflicts, human rights violations, humanitarian disasters and violent conflicts and to prevent genocide.”

They further pledged “not to bequeath the burden of conflicts to the next generation of Africans and undertake to end all wars by 2020.” The AUPSC had submitted a Master Roadmap of practical steps to Silencing the Guns by 2020, which was endorsed by the Assembly in January 2017. In relation to the AU theme of the year for 2020, series of multistakeholder virtual engagements have been organized by the Peace and Security Department focusing on thematic issues related to silencing the guns. These engagements aimed at not only mobilizing public awareness and engagement but also to address some of the key developments and challenges in implementing the theme of the year, in the wake of COVID-19. The outcomes of these engagements are expected to feed into the upcoming extraordinary summit next month.

In recent years, progress has been made in resolving some of the most intractable conflicts in Africa. However, by the AU’s own admission, some of the limited progresses achieved thus far in places such as Sudan, South Sudan and Central African Republic are a far cry compared to the lofty goals and objectives set out in the AU Master Roadmap for silencing the guns in Africa or compared to the recent trends in the deterioration of the peace and security conditions of the continent. Africa no doubt continues to face serious threats to its peace and stability.

Some parts of Africa remain mired in conflict and new challenges to peace and security have emerged. Governance deficits continue to present fertile conditions for the persistence and emergence of wide range of security issues including conflicts, terrorism, organized crime and armed insurgencies. Short of that, the worsening of governance issues coupled with the global economic slowdown and its attendant impact on commodity prices as well as the youth bulge and high rates of unemployment have made many African countries vulnerable to political upheavals.

Most notably, the mismanagement of diversity and zerosum competition over power and resources have also contributed to fueling conflicts in some parts of the continent. In other parts, state fragility and weak state institutions have increased the risk of those countries that have emerged out of conflict relapsing into yet another cycle of conflict and violence. The situation in many fragile countries in Africa has been further complicated by the multiple impacts of the COVID-19 pandemics, which has overwhelmed weak health systems, shattered economies, and caused political instability and crisis.

Clearly, Africa is far from the AU’s ambition of silencing the guns. A lot remains to be done and it has to be done differently. All indications are that, the goal of silencing the guns cannot be achieved in a business as usual approach to the management of the affairs of the countries of the continent and indeed peace and security in Africa. AU High Representative for Silencing the Guns in Africa Ramtane Lamamra stressed “the need to review and adjust our conflict prevention and resolution tools in order to effectively and efficiently respond to the everchanging nature of conflict, violence and criminality on the continent”. He also underscored the need to “reduce the gap between strategic political and military efforts to prevent and resolve conflicts, on one hand, and investment in economic and social development, on the other hand”. Furthermore, he emphasized the need to build a culture of peace and tolerance.

Within the framework of the amnesty month for the surrender and collection of illegal weapons which is held every September, tomorrow’s session also serves to receive update on the PSC’s request from its 943rd session that ‘a lessons-learned study, that covers the experiences of the conduct and commemoration of the Africa Amnesty Month, implementation of various national programs that were implemented outside the Amnesty Month, and submit to the PSC in the course of 2020’. It is also notable as highlighted in the communiqué of the 943rd session, the challenges of illicit arms and weapons goes beyond collection of weapons and requires addressing plethora of issues. This should continue to receive particular attention.

Considering the new global geo-political dynamics, enhancing the role of the African Union and its regional mechanisms in the promotion and maintenance of peace and security in Africa is not an option. It is to be recalled that the PSC at its 868th meeting, the PSC strongly condemned external interference into African peace and security issues.

The institutional reforms underway will be critical, this is particularly the case in terms of strengthening the governance and security architectures as well as the synergies between them to accelerate efforts towards silencing the guns in Africa. Within the reform process, ensuring greater coordination and synergy between the African Union and its regional mechanisms is also vital. Furthermore, the revitalization of the African Union Peace Fund will contribute to addressing the financing needs of the African Union in its prevention and peacemaking efforts.

At a time when there is donor fatigue, enhancing greater ownership of the AU’s programmatic activities and enhancing the contribution of member State to the Peace Fund has become all the more indispensable. This should be driven by the conviction that building a conflict free Africa is in the first instance the responsibility of the AU and its Member States, their people, and their institutions, including civil society.

This effort towards mobilizing intra-African resources for financing peace and security has to be done with due recognition of the fact that peace and security in Africa is a global public good and hence required the support and partnership of the international community. Accordingly, partnership with UN and other international partners remains crucial. The adoption by the Security Council of resolution 2457 (2019) on silencing the guns in Africa is indeed a step in the right direction but that has to be translated into concrete action through practical cooperation between the UN and the AU to silence the guns in different parts of the continent. It also behooves the UNSC to respond positively to the longstanding request by the AU for access to financial support for AU peace support operations authorized by the UNSC from the UN assessed contributions.

The expected outcome of the session is a communiqué. It is expected that the PSC will propose to the AU Assembly that the focus on silencing the guns is extended beyond 2020 as part of the first ten-year implementation plan of Agenda 2063 running from 2013 to 2023. The PSC, while welcoming some of the limited progress made in some of the conflict situations such as CAR, South Sudan and Sudan, may also urge that efforts for sustaining progress registered in these situations are redoubled to prevent any slide back to conflict. Against the background of the lessons from the implementation of the AU Master Roadmap during the past three years and the deterioration of the security situation on the continent, it may also propose that the Master Roadmap is updated to ensure that a more effective approach is mobilized for addressing the peace and security challenges on thecontinent.


Insights on the Peace & Security Council - Briefing on Silencing the Guns in Africa

AU Initiatives

Date | 10, December 2019

Tomorrow (10 December) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) will consider the draft report on the implementation of the AU Roadmap on Silencing the Guns in Africa by 2020, which will be presented to the next ordinary session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union scheduled to take place in Addis Ababa in February next year.

Silencing the Guns is a flagship initiative of the African Union to promote prevention, management and resolution of conflicts in Africa. It provides the overarching strategy guiding the efforts of the organization in ensuring a peaceful and secure Africa and laying a solid foundation for the
implementation of Agenda 2063. As part of the Solemn Declaration of the 50th Anniversary of the African Union, African states committed “to achieve the goal of a conflict‐free Africa, to make peace a reality for all our people and to rid the continent of wars, civil conflicts, human rights violations, humanitarian disasters and violent conflicts and to prevent genocide.” They further pledged “not to bequeath the burden of conflicts to the next generation of Africans and undertake to end all wars by 2020.”

The AUPSC submitted a Master Roadmap of practical steps to Silencing the Guns by 2020, which was endorsed by the Assembly in January 2017. In view of the impending deadline, the upcoming AU Summit in February next year is expected to take stock of the progress made and the challenges encountered in the efforts made towards achieving the objective of silencing the guns in Africa. In this context, the 32nd ordinary session of the Assembly requested the PSC, with the support of the Commission, to take steps for the elaboration of a comprehensive report on the status of implementation of the AU Master Roadmap.

Therefore, the AUPSC will consider the draft report before its submission to the Assembly. A decision has already been made that the AU theme of the year for 2020 would be “Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development”.

For PSC member states, some of the issues of interest include the degree of progress made and the remaining challenges as well as the measures to be taken for addressing the challenges towards increased progress for silencing the guns in Africa. Although fragile, some progress has been made towards resolving some of the most intractable conflicts in Africa. The signing of the revitalized peace agreement in South Sudan had revived hope for restoring peace. The guns have by and large been silent but without implementing the letter and spirit of the agreement, there is a serious risk of reversal. Ensuring accelerated progress in the extended pre‐transition period of 100 days will be very critical in this regard. The signing of the peace agreement in Central African Republic also rescued the country from falling into the abyss but
challenges still abound. Furthermore, the signing of the power‐sharing deal by the Sudanese stakeholders with the support of the AU and Ethiopia has set a very good example in the search for African solutions to African problems.

The normalization of relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea also ended long standing stalemate that impeded stability in the Horn of Africa. However, without resolving some of the outstanding issues, sustaining the peace will be a challenge. Progress has also been made in recent years in strengthening governance including in holding peaceful elections in Africa. This said, strengthening institutions of governance, promoting inclusive politics, responding to the needs and aspiration of the people remains a daunting challenge.

By AU’s own admission, some of the limited progresses achieved thus far are a far cry compared to the lofty goals and objectives set out in the AU Master Roadmap for silencing the guns in Africa and the scale of remaining challenges. The continent no doubt continues to face serious threats to its peace and stability. Parts of Africa remain mired in conflict and new challenges to peace and security have emerged.

Governance deficits coupled with the global economic slowdown and its attendant impact on commodity prices as well as the youth bulge and high rates of unemployment have made many African countries vulnerable to instability and conflict. Together with this, the mismanagement of diversity and competition over power and resources have also contributed to fueling conflicts in some parts of the continent. In other parts, state fragility and weak state institutions have increased the risk of those countries that have emerged out of conflict relapsing into yet another cycle of conflict and violence.

Therefore, that a lot remains to be done towards silencing the guns in Africa is all the more evident and, hence, the need to redouble efforts to fasttrack implementation. There is a recognition of this fact and a dedicated Unit under the Bureau of the AU Commission Chairperson has been established.

Considering the new global geo‐political dynamics, enhancing the role of the AU and regional mechanisms in the promotion and maintenance of peace and security in Africa is not an option. The institutional reforms underway will be critical in strengthening the governance and security architectures of the AU to accelerate efforts towards silencing the guns in Africa. Ensuring greater coordination and synergy between the AU and regional mechanisms is also vital. Furthermore, the revitalization of the AU Peace Fund will contribute to addressing the financing needs of the AU in its prevention and peacemaking efforts. At a time when there is donor fatigue, enhancing greater ownership of the AU’s programmatic activities and enhancing the contribution of member State to the Peace Fund has become all the more indispensable. This should be driven by the conviction that building a conflict free Africa is essentially the responsibility of the AU and its Member States, their people and their institutions, including civil society.

Although no outcome by way of statement or communique is expected, the AUPSC is expected to endorse the draft report with revisions and recommend it for adoption by the Assembly. It may express appreciation to the AU High Representative for Silencing the Guns in Africa and recommend that a plan is put in place for addressing challenges faced in the implementation of the AU Master Roadmap.

The PSC may also welcome the adoption of resolution 2457 (2019) and commend the role of Equatorial Guinea and other members of the A3 for their important contribution in facilitating its adoption. It may also reiterate the need for all AU Member States to submit their reports on their implementation of the AU Master Roadmap.


Insights on the Peace & Security Council - Exchange of views with the High Representative of the AU Commission Chairperson on Silencing the Guns

AU Initiatives

Date | 05, February 2019

Tomorrow (5 February) the PSC is scheduled to have a session for ‘Exchange of views between the PSC and the AU High Representative for Silencing the Guns’. The format of the session is assigned to be open but only to African Union (AU) member states. AU’s agenda on silencing the guns was developed within the framework of the 50th anniversary of the O/AU in May 2013 and the adoption of Agenda 2063. One of the most ambitious targets that the Heads of State and Government of the AU Assembly set for Africa in the 50th Anniversary Solemn Declaration was the pledge ‘not to bequeath the burden of conflicts to the next generation of Africans’ and ‘to end all wars in Africa by 2020’.

Following its open session under the theme “Silencing the Guns: pre-requisites for realizing a conflict-free Africa by the year 2020” at 430th meeting, the PSC in its press statement PSC/PR/BR (CDXXX) requested the AUC to prepare a roadmap to underpin the actions necessary for the attainment of the goal of a conflict free Africa by 2020. Subsequently, the AU within the framework of the PSC developed the Master Roadmap of Practical Steps for Silencing the Guns in Africa by the Year 2020 as part of the flagship projects and
programmes of Agenda 2063, Africa’s blueprint for its long-term socio-economic and integrative transformation.

The 28th Ordinary Session of the Assembly, held in Addis Ababa, on 30 and 31 January 2017, adopted through decision Assembly/AU/Dec/630 (XXVIII) the AU Master Roadmap. As a key step for mobilizing action towards the ambition of silencing the guns, in October 2017, the AU Commission Chairperson appointed Ramtane Lamamra, of Algeria, as his High Representative for Silencing the Guns in Africa. In this Capacity, Mr Lamamra was assigned the task of assisting the Commission to galvanize support towards ending violence and sustaining peace on the continent. Tomorrow’s session presents an opportunity for the High Representative, Ramtane Lamamra, to inform the PSC of the efforts he made since assuming the responsibility and update member states on the progress made and challenges faced in the effort to realize the ambition of silencing the guns by 2020.

In terms of Lamamra’s role, it is of interest for PSC members to learn about his program of activities visà- vis the AU Master Roadmap and actions uncertaken within that framework. In this respect, Lamamra is expected to highlight the High-Level Workshop organized through his office on 11 and 12 October on the steps that should be taken for speeding up the implementation of the AU’s Agenda 2063 peace and security flagship project of silencing the guns. Of particular importance would be the insights he would share from the workshop including the emphasis that participants put on the imperative of prioritizing prevention of violent conflicts by addressing root causes and strengthening AU’s efforts towards structural prevention of conflicts.

In terms of interventions in current or emerging situations in his role as High-Representative, PSC members would be interested about the opportunity that his office avails to the AU for sustained engagement in the effort to resolve specific conflict situations. In this respect, his briefing is expected to highlight the contribution of his engagement to the peace process in Madagascar and Comoros. Given that the time left for achieving the silencing of the guns is fast approaching, this briefing also serves for assessing the progress made, the challenges faced and the adjustments required in pursuing the ambition of silencing the guns. The progress being registered would be highlighted in terms of the measures taken for resolving on-going conflicts in various settings: the Central African Republic CAR– (through the AU Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation), the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), between Ethiopia and Eritrea, between Djibouti and Eritrea, Darfur (Sudan), The Gambia, Guinea Bissau and the South Sudan peace process, among others.

Other areas that would also be highlighted include the efforts made for mobilizing the role of regional organizations and international actors. Of particular interest in this respect would be the concerted effort for addressing the problem of the illicit proliferation, circulation and use of small arms and light weapons including the development of the Silencing the Guns Continental Plan of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons and the development of the Draft AU Policy for the Management of Recovered Arms and Ammunition in PSOs.

With respect to the implementation of the Master Roadmap, it has by now become
apparent that the objective of silencing the guns would not be realized by 2020 in the current peace and security context and trends of the continent. In terms of the role of the AU in conflict prevention, as the PSC pointed out in its reports on silencing the guns, one of the major challenges for implementation of the agenda of silencing the guns is the problem of denialism, which significantly undermines AU’s role to work out and facilitate early responses. As pointed out, failure to acknowledge and take corrective action upon receipt of early warning information on looming crises or on aggravation of an existing crisis tends to multiply conditions that push some of the political actors to arm themselves and use violence to pursue political objectives.

Another challenge relates to the degree of domestication of and commitment to the priorities set in the Master Roadmap by member states. As the PSC did during its 430th session, the importance of the responsibility of individual member state in protecting their citizens by addressing the root causes of conflicts should be underscored. In this regard, particular attention should be given to the deepening of the culture of democracy, good governance, respect for human rights, popular participation and inclusivity and addressing the problem of youth unemployment and regional or social inequality that create the conditions for conflicts.

Also of importance for the PSC and indeed AU member states for whom tomorrow’s session is open is review of the Master Roadmap and the approach of the AU for silencing the guns. In this respect of particular importance is the imperative of focusing on mobilization of targeted intervention on priority peace and security challenges. It would be good in this regard to examine whether it would be worth to task relevant organs and institutions to initiate and mobilize action in respect to the pervasive and increasing governance challenges on the continent, terrorism and violent extremism etc.

The expected outcome of the session is a press statement, although a communiqué with substantive decisions would also be fitting. While taking note of the measure of progress registered, this could underscore the responsibility of states and the particular importance of national level measures. In terms of regional and continental interventions, it could provide for adjusting the Master Roadmap paying particular attention to the mobilization of discreet targeted policy intervention measures both to prevent the eruption into full-scale conflict of high impact emerging crisis situations and/or to achieve resolution of some of the major existing conflicts. The role of the High Representative (including in terms of providing his office with resources and elevating its work for catalysing the required actions) is also worth emphasizing. The PSC could also stipulate to hold quarterly session to assess progress on the basis of an updated Master Roadmap and specific plans of action developed within the framework of the Master Roadmap.


Insights on the Peace & Security Council - Open Session: Celebration of Amnesty Month

AU Initiatives

Date | 05, September 2019

Tomorrow (5 September) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is scheduled to hold an open session to commemorate the celebration of amnesty month. The discussion is expected to focus on the progress made on the implementation of the AU Master Roadmap on silencing the guns by 2020 mainly the challenges and perspectives, with a focus on the Security Sector Reform (SSR) in Africa.

The Department of Peace and Security (PSD), particularly the representative of the Director of PSD and Acting Head of the Division on Defence and Security are expected to deliver briefing to the PSC. Also expected to make a statement is the Head of the UN Office to the AU. The Institute for Security
Studies is expected to present as well. Tomorrow’s session is taking place in line with the 2017 Assembly decision Assembly/AU/Dec.

645(XXIX), which after deliberating on the Inaugural Report of the PSC on the Implementation of the AU Master Roadmap on Practical Steps for Silencing the Guns in Africa by the Year 2020,
declared the month of September each year, up to 2020, as “Africa Amnesty Month” for the surrender and collection of illegally owned weapons/arms. It is expected that tomorrow’s session will address three inter-related thematic issues. The first relates to Security Sector Reform/Governance (SSR/G). The second is the commemoration of the Amnesty Month. The last is the implementation of the AU Roadmap on Silencing the Guns by 2020. In the presentation from the Head of the Defence and Security Division. particular attention is expected to be given to SSR including the AU SSR program and the AU SSR Policy framework.

Tomorrow’s session follows the inaugural meeting of the AU steering committee on security sector reform, held from 3 September 2019 in Addis Ababa.

The Silencing the Guns Roadmap recognizes the challenges around SSR policies. The Roadmap calls on the need to promote ownership of national SSR Programs in member states and the need to stipulate clear obligations and timelines on SSR in peace agreement including putting in place adequate
follow up mechanisms.

For PSC members it would be of interest to identify the challenges relating to SSR in Africa. One set of issues expected to be highlighted is the sensitivities of member states and wrong perceptions that SSR concerns only post-conflict situations. Studies also show that another challenge in SSR relate to civilian possession and use of small arms and weapons. The recent report by the AUC and Small Arms Survey ‘Weapons Compass: Mapping Illicit Small Arms Flows in Africa’ has noted that civilian actors including individuals, private businesses and nonstate armed groups hold almost 80% of small arms on the continent. Among the civilian held firearms only around 10% has been registered.

This is also an indication that security regimes in various African countries have been characterised by a range of non-state actors, including private security companies, local militias, guerrilla armies, community self-policing groups and others. With the lack or weakening monopoly use of force by the state particularly in countries affected by violence leads to the emergence of reliance by individuals and communities on self-organized security provision. While a locally driven SSR is key in designing a
tailored approach, account should be had to the transnational nature of insecurities. This also requires enhanced coordination among the security institutions of neighbouring countries including through the Regional Economic Communities/Mechanisms and the AU SSR processes.

Tomorrow’s session may also highlight that SSR is not solely a security matter and may call on for a comprehensive approach to reform encompassing state-society relationship. Therefore, its effective implementation may require the concerted efforts and cooperation among wide range of institutions in the government structure and the public at large. There is also the challenge of effective formulation and proper implementation of SSR provisions in peace agreements. As the experiences of South Sudan and the Central African Republic show, this is one of the major sources of disruption of peace processes. In the light of the return of countries to conflict after signing of peace agreements, there is also interest in post-conflict reconstruction and development. Hence the PSC and participants may reflect on how to sustain peace including through enhanced consideration of the SSR dimension of peace and post-conflict processes.

In terms of the amnesty month, the recent report on small arms and light weapons referred to above highlighted the need for focusing on private possession and use of small arms and light weapons. In this regard the 860th meeting of the PSC stressed ‘the need for improved measures to regulate nonstate actor possession of small arms and light weapons, in order to prevent the diversion or misuse
of weapons and encourages Member States to implement initiatives that are in line with the Africa Amnesty Month’.

However, there is a need for national level measures including the boosting of state-based provision of security services for encouraging the surrender of weapons in the hands of non-state actors and reporting on how and whether member states are observing the Amnesty month. Central to this is the need for finding ways of establishing or restoring the capacity particularly of states lacking effective provision of security to all their populations. This is directly linked to security sector governance as a measure of conflict prevention.

With respect to the AU Roadmap on Silencing the Guns, tomorrow’s session affords an opportunity for taking stock of where implementation of the Roadmap stands and the progress made towards achieving its ambitious objectives. Also important is the lessons to be learned from the process of elaboration and implementation of the Roadmap, including in terms of identification of areas of intervention and effective implementation of relevant measures. With 2020 only months away, it would be of particular interest to PSC members to discuss what will happen post-2020.

The expected outcome of the session is a press statement. The Council may highlight that the prospects for sustainable peace and stability are ensured by the extent to which SSR is anchored on the state of security broadly defined, instead of a narrow focus on certain security institutions. The PSC may reiterate its previous decisions for Member States and RECs/Regional Mechanisms to submit reports to Council, through the AUC, on the actions taken in implementing the Africa Amnesty Month, to feed in its report to the upcoming Assembly. With respect to the Roadmap on Silencing the Guns by 2020, the PSC could request the AU Commission to provide it with a comprehensive report reviewing implementation of the Roadmap and proposing on how the agenda on silencing the guns by 2020 will be followed up post-2020.


Insights on the Peace & Security Council

AU Initiatives

Date | 03, September 2020

PSC session on africa amnesty month:implementation of the au theme of the year 2020: ‘silencing the guns: creating conducive conditions for africa’s development’ within the au flagship project on silencing the guns

Tomorrow (3 September) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is expected to hold its 943rd session. The session is expected to be partially open and will commemorate the Africa Amnesty Month with a focus on the implementation of the AU theme of the year 2020: ‘Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development’ as part of the AU flagship project on Silencing the Guns.

Representatives of the five geographic regions of the AU, Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and Regional Mechanisms (RMs) as well as beneficiary member states of the joint AU and UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) project, which are Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Cote D’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Kenya are expected to participate.

The PSC Chair Ambassador Mohamed Idriss is expected to deliver the opening statement. The Commissioner for Peace and Security Smail Cergui and Commissioner for Political Affairs Minata Samate Cessouma and the representative of the UNODA are expected to deliver presentations. Others who are also expected to address the session are the Regional Centre on Small Arms (RECSA) and the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) are also scheduled to provide briefings.

Tomorrow’s session will be the fourth commemorative session since the 2017 Assembly decision Assembly/AU/Dec.645 (XXIX) declared the month of September each year until 2020 as “Africa Amnesty Month”. The session affords the opportunity to assess the efforts around surrender and collection of illicit weapons and in curbing the flow of illegal arms. It also aims at taking stocks of ongoing activities and challenges in realizing the objectives of the Amnesty Month.

One aspect of the tomorrow’s deliberation will focus on the joint AU and UNODA project implemented in the seven countries. The project was launched in March 2020 in Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic and Kenya, the reaming three countries namely Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire and Ethiopia joined in July 2020.

Countries are expected to share their experiences, best practices and lessons learned in managing and controlling the flow of illicit arms and weapons. The countries represent various regions and are at various stages in peace and security as well as in terms of experiences in managing illicit flow of arms. The joint project implemented in the countries has four major activities planned for the year. The first activity is a campaign and media events to mobilize and sensitize people on the risks of illicit trafficking of small arms. In line with the AU decision and the purpose of the Amnesty month, governments do not prosecute or undertake punitive measures against individuals that voluntarily surrender illegal weapons during the month of September.

The second strand of the project aims at activities related to the collection and safe storage of illicit weapons. The third component aims at destroying the weapons and arms that been collected. The fourth element is community policing training workshops to law enforcement for increased security.

Apart from the national focal points on small arms control, RECSA is an implementing partner of the project, hence its intervention may further complement the statements that will be made by member states. The contributions from the various stakeholders is also expected to feature in the report of the PSC on Silencing the Guns that will be submitted to the AU Assembly.

In addition to the experience sharing from national institutions, the discussion will also benefit from the intervention of RECs and RMs. The proliferation and flow of illicit arms is trans-boundary in nature and particularly in countries with limited border control it can be a serious security threat that stretches over multiple countries or even regions. Hence the response requires a regional strategy and concerted efforts among member states. In this regard, it is of interest for PSC members to explore how to further enhance and reinforce their coordination at national, regional and continental levels in order to control and monitor the use and movement of arms in the Continent.

UNODA’s presentation may broadly shed light on planned activities for the year in the various countries. It may also highlight on the role of youth in realizing the activities under the Amnesty month. In fact, one of the campaigns targeting the youth is the “Your Voice Matters – What is your Slogan for the Africa Amnesty Month” contest that is open to any young person from the six participating countries (with the exception of Ethiopia). The winning slogan will be used in the nation-wide campaign for the Amnesty month.

The AU through its Youth Envoy has also launched a campaign in July 2020 to provide a platform to mobilize and advance the role of the youth in the realization of the Silencing the Guns agenda. It will also be important in linking such kinds of continental initiatives with national projects that are currently being undertaken in the seven countries. Tomorrow’s commemoration of the Amnesty month is taking place in the context of the ongoing COVID19 pandemic. The various presentations and interventions may also highlight the impact of the pandemic on the surrender and collection processes of the illicit weapons.

The extent to which the overstretched capacity and resources of member states can effectively undertake disarmaments efforts is one of the key challenges that might be raised by participants. A recent study by UNODA demonstrated the possible impact of the pandemic on the collection and analysis of data on diversion risks; national ammunition management-related programming; and on international assistance, cooperation, and funding initiatives.

It is known from the experience in various parts of the continent the lack or weakening monopoly of use of force by the state particularly in countries affected by violence leads to the emergence of reliance by individuals and communities on self-organized security provision. Accordingly, effective implementation of the collection and voluntary surrender of arms requires that states implement measures including the boosting of state-based provision of security services.

It is to be recalled that at the margins of the 2019 Amnesty month PSC session, the AU launched a steering committee on security sector reform (SSR). It may be of interest for PSC members to follow up on this mechanism and on its work over the past year. The expected outcome is a statement. The PSC may reiterate its previous decisions for Member States and RECs/Regional Mechanisms to submit reports to Council, through the AUC, on the actions taken in implementing the Africa Amnesty Month. The PSC may also underscore the necessity of monitoring and reporting on the movement of arms within the various regions and across the continent. It may call on the AU Commission to establish in collaboration with RECs and the UN a mechanism for monitoring, reporting on and addressing the illicit flow into Africa and movement within Africa of illicit weapons and arms that have made intercommunal conflicts in places such as the Sahel most destructive and deadly.

In terms of enhancing national capacity, the PSC may call on member states to put in place legislation on the ownership and possession of arms as well as safe keeping of armaments and ammunition depots and develop strategy for enhancing the provision of security services and peaceful conflict resolution mechanisms so that members of the public do not feel the need to resort to acquiring and using arms for defending themselves. The PSC may also welcome the mobilization of the youth in Africa in pursuit of the fight against illicit possession, circulation and use of illegal arms and weapons. Given that Amnesty month requires the
contribution of various sectors of society, it may also call for strengthened coordination not only at national,
regional, continental and international levels but also across the AU system and with various sectors of the African public including most notably civil society organizations and the media.