AU has become an ineffective talking shop on silencing guns

Wednesday June 16 2021
Guns in South Sudan.

UN commanders in South Sudan inspect confiscated guns in 2014. PHOTO | FILE | NMG


I almost forgot that our very own African Union (AU) had promised itself it would work towards silencing the guns in 2020, a date that has already been missed by a year.

It would seem like, instead of the promised silencing, the guns are becoming noisier by the week in so many parts of the continent that it would look like we are all at war.

I have been looking at my office map of Africa, and what I see are explosions in large parts of the continent, with the newest being the fighting in northern Mozambique that seems to know no respite.

In West Africa (Nigeria, Mali, Niger, Burkina Fasso, Cote d’Ivoire); Central Africa (Cameroon, Congo); the Horn of Africa (Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan) we are almost getting used to two or more varieties of insurgency that have turned many countries into failed, and failing, states, where governments are not able to control the totality of their territories.

It must be said that the setting of 2020 as the date for ‘silencing the guns’ sounded rather ambitious when it was made in 2019, and it was probably put down to the habit of Africans making all these grand declarations without referring to any proven ability to put their money where their mouths are.

Short on Action


For too long, the AU — and its predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity — has been taken as an ineffective talking shop that is long on talk and short on action. One of the demonstrations of this foible is that of funding for continental programmes, even paying for the running of the very organisations they themselves set up.

It is a shame that we have not been able to face up to our responsibilities, but it is hardly surprising, because the apparatuses running our countries can hardly be called national states.

For the most part they are alien to their people and have little in common with the aspirations of their people, and the latter have other problems to care for than bail out states that they see no use for.

The neocolonial state in Africa has proved unworkable as a national state, mostly lacks legitimacy, and has to depend on its foreign sponsors to stay barely afloat.

Our governments

It is the case that we see again and again of France intervening in Africa to save this or that failed state, and the consternation felt in West Africa today when the Elysee announces its intention to withdraw from supporting one of our governments.

This has been pointed out time and again but Africans never seem to learn, so much so that it would seem like we would happily welcome our erstwhile colonial powers back to recolonise us. At any rate what good is “independence” if it does not mean one is “independent,” able to stand on one’s feet?

Most of our problems are self-inflicted, basically because our rulers have simply failed to learn good governance, and have turned their countries into fiefdoms where they tolerate no one who does not agree with them, thus making conflict, and war more likely.

Recent actions

Despite the many injunctions against military rule, soldiers are increasingly risking the ire of the AU and taking over power, regardless. The very recent cases of Chad and Mali illustrate this point.

And, at any rate, where is the dividing line between civilian and military rule when even the so-called civilian states are kept in power through the brutal instrumentalisation of police and military might and, like one of our oldest rulers said, “If you what to get me out of power, go to the bush and fight like I did.” Or words to that effect.

This is not an invitation to “silence” the guns but rather an invitation to a shootout.

It is the kind of expressed sentiment that tells you that the speaker has a morbid disdain for people who have no guns, and who will spare no amount of violence to maintain himself in power.

It is this philosophy that informs our governance systems. Those who take up arms against tyrannical regimes do so in order to change the balance of violence, to wrest it from the hands of the occupants of state house and turn it in their favour.

Peace talks

When the balance nears parity, then peace talks of sorts will be organised, and, tellingly, only those who have taken up arms will have a seat at the table. Those who have been talking about peace and reconciliation while the war raged on can at best become observers on the sidelines.

In this way, a lot of store is set by the more muscular methods of negotiation, and in soon the culture of violence is installed at the heart of a country’s governance.

Thus, taking up arms is a way of securing a seat at the negotiation table, a chance to be part of the next government.

In such a situation, where is the incentive for “silencing the guns” last year, or any other year after that?

Jenerali Ulimwengu is now on YouTube via jeneralionline tv. E-mail: [email protected]