As the world ushers in a new decade, Africa is looking up to its leaders to get the continent out of a quandary of conflict, poverty, disease and corruption that threaten to regress its growth.
Despite progress made over the years in containing violent conflicts, lasting peace remains elusive in parts of Africa as a result of emerging threats.
To recommit and rededicate efforts at keeping conflicts at bay, the African Union is devoting 2020 as the year to silence the guns on the continent, through several actions involving member states, regional economic communities and mechanisms, the private sector, civil society and others.
“Silencing the guns is a complex, yet noble responsibility of the African Union, its member states, its regional economic communities, and regional mechanisms, and indeed all African citizens,” said Smail Chergui, AU’s commissioner for Peace and Security, at a workshop dubbed Silencing the Guns, held in the Egyptian resort city of Aswan last month.
The AU acknowledged that the goal of peace is a shared responsibility among African governments, regional institutions, Africa’s partners, African citizens, the private sector, youth, women and other special groups; and that peace can be attainable through tolerance, conflict resolution and prevention, good governance and democracy.
The workshop agreed on actions to be taken to promote peace and create conducive environment for development.
The Aswan meeting was critical in intensifying multilateral co-ordination and collaboration of efforts to harmonise policies and actions on silencing the guns in Africa.
The nexus between peace and development was a key feature at the forum, where participants noted that AU member states, as primary custodians for public security, have the ultimate responsibility to develop policies to change the spiral of violence, especially across the Sahel, the Chad Basin, the Horn of Africa, North and parts of West Africa.
“Giving a theme to the year 2020 is merely the beginning. The urgency in implementing the priorities we have decided upon, requires that we harness and concentrate all possible efforts,” added Ramtane Lamamra, the AU High Representative for Silencing the Guns in Africa.
Mr Lamamra is leading efforts to fast track the campaign to silence the guns and harmonise activities related to the initiative.
The AU Commission is placing emphasis on member states’ role in making the campaign a success. The 55-member-nation body argues that African countries are bound by a shared destiny and therefore, have a collective responsibility to the continent’s security.
As part of its Agenda 2063 framework, the AU heads of state and government adopted an ambitious initiative, to silence the guns in Africa by this year. While progress has been made in reducing state-driven conflicts, ethno-religious, resource and politically-driven conflicts continue, especially in fragile regions, and remains one of the biggest threats to Africa.
The continental body is expected to formally launch the slogan—“Silencing the Guns: creating conducive conditions for Africa’s development”—as the AU theme of the year 2020, at its heads of states summit in February.
The role of Africa’s youth in silencing the guns will be critical in a continent where young people bear the brunt of violent conflicts and are often manipulated by warring parties, both state and non-state actors into taking up arms.
While the continent’s total population is expected to increase to 1.6 billion in 2030, and three billion in 2065, young people in Africa will total 531 million by 2065—approximately 30.2 per cent of Africa’s population, according to UN estimates.
The African Union is looking up to this demographic dividend to change the course of the continent’s future.
Betty Dindi is the Team Lead-Communication Campaign on Silencing the Guns, in the Office of the African Union High Representative for Silencing the Guns in Africa.