The urgency to ‘silence the guns’ in Africa, has become imperative, given the incessant massacre and intractable wars across the continent.
These hostilities have, undoubtedly, pushed the region and its people to the cesspit of poverty and economic disasters.
Terrorism, has more than ever, devastated several communities, and invariably shoved Africa behind other regions, in virtually every facet of life.
Last week, Boko Haram, attacked a United Nations (UN) helicopter in Damasak, Borno State, killing two civilians including a child.
United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Mr. Edward Kallon expressed grave concerns about ‘another violent attack by non-state armed groups (Boko Haram) in Damasak, Borno State, on July 2, in which at least two innocent civilians lost their lives, including a five years old child.
A 2018 National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) report said since 2009, insurgents ‘have killed over 30,000 people, displacing about three million, in northeast states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe.’
Similarly the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), an independent, think-tank organization said, ‘about 37,500 persons have been killed by terrorists, since May 2011. Nearly 2.5 million people have been displaced in the Lake Chad Basin, with about 244,000 refugees in Nigeria alone.’
As part of efforts to address these calamities, Africa Union (AU) designated ‘Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development,’ as its theme for this year.
However the implementation of this novel initiative, was stalled by the coronavirus pandemic.
Hence the regional body has, called on leaders and stakeholders, to redouble efforts to end the orgy of violence in various communities.
Recently, African leaders unveiled a new roadmap to power-up the campaign, during a two-week, virtual conference, from May 25 in commemoration of Africa Day.
The Peace and Security Department, in collaboration with the Department of Political Affairs of the AU Commission, convened the programme, ‘to give impetus to the efforts towards campaign on silencing the guns in Africa.’
The group, in a statement said ‘the conference was also aimed at highlighting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and related challenges in the implementation of the regional agenda.’
Additionally, ‘the series were designed to accentuate the necessity for partnership among Member States, Regional Economic Communities/Regional Mechanisms for Conflict Prevention, management and Resolution (RECs/RMs), United Nations (UN), civil society organizations (CSOs) and the private sector in the implementation of AU Master Roadmap of Practical Steps to Silence the Guns in Africa (AUMR).’
Commissioner for Peace and Security, Smail Chergui, in his keynote address said ‘the threat posed by COVID-19, has considerably slowed the momentum of the silencing the guns agenda.’
This is an unfortunate set-back, that should be addressed at both regional and national levels.
‘Our intention is to further accelerate our collective efforts to end conflicts and crises in Africa, while expressing concern that terrorists and armed groups have failed to heed the calls of the AU and UN leadership for a global ceasefire.’
Nigeria, has in recent times, witnessed escalating violence, perpetuated by armed groups and criminals.
According to security reports, terrorists, bandits, Fulani herdsmen and other splinter groups have continued to unleash mayhem in Katsina, Borno and Kaduna and other parts of the country, amidst the economic severities, associated with the pandemic.
Indubitably, the impact of this widespread catastrophe is mind-blowing.
These factors, Chergui said, ‘have severely affected humanitarian access to conflict and crisis areas and limited the reach of support and relief efforts, exacerbating the dual impact of the conflict and the damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic on the most vulnerable, namely refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), returnees and migrants, as well as, youths, women, children and the elderly.’
Commissioner for Political Affairs, Cessouma Semate, said ‘a sustainable strategy to silence the guns must directly address the structural root causes of violent conflicts, notably governance deficits, and the need to promote equitable management of natural resources for the overall benefit of the citizenry.’
In Nigeria, for instance, successive governments have been accused of massive corruption and mismanagement of oil wealth, which have been blamed for separatists movements, tribal-cum-religious tension and under-development.
Cheerily, the recent meetings organized by the Peace and Security Council (PSC), addressed various conflicts and crisis situations and thematic issues, in tandem with AU’s ambitious proposition to silence the guns in Africa within the context of COVID-19 pandemic.’
Participants highlighted the ramifications of illicit inflows of small arms and light weapons into Africa. ‘Continued illicit circulation of these weapons within the continent, corruption, illicit financial inflows and governance deficits, are the major factors for both traditional and non-traditional threats to states and human security in the continent.’
Speakers also identified practical measures, to address the issues, including the necessity for country-level strategies and actions, appointment of envoys on silencing the guns, in line with the relevant AU Assembly decisions, mobilization of the private sector for investment and job creation.
They also canvassed for establishment of an African Economic Forum, under the umbrella of Agenda 2063, in order to further enhance the ongoing efforts to end conflicts, by creating conducive conditions for development in the region.
The current administration, woefully, failed to end the surging bloodshed across the country, despite its humongous budgetary allocations to the military and the battle against insurgency.
Perhaps the successful implementation of the novel agenda, to silence guns, will usher in peace and progress to Nigeria and the entire continent.
.Ojukwu, a Fellow of Hubert H. Humphrey and journalist, reviewed this treatise, as part of a series on Africa’s progress on Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs).
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