The African Union has come under scrutiny for its failure to prevent conflicts on the continent before they happen, only to issue statements and sanctions after the fact.
Participants at the 12th Annual high level retreat on the promotion of peace and security concluded that the continental body lacks the political goodwill to put its powers into action.
Hosted by the African Union’s Silencing the Guns Initiative, the three-day meeting held in Nairobi recently brought together diplomats, political leaders and top AU official. Happening with the backdrop of drums of war in Ethiopia and internal turmoil in Sudan, the theme of Improved Co-ordination and Harmonisation for Impactful Mediation was timely.
Jeremiah Mamabolo, the former head of the AU-UN Mission in Darfur cited AU’s assistance to Sudan after the overthrown of the Omar al-Bashir regime, which stabilised the country, but stopped.
“The AU could have assisted with the transition after realising the military wing was facing challenges of accountability due to previous massacres. We have shortages of resources but there must be a political will to silence the guns,” said Mr Mamabolo.
The AU’s failure to act in advance was blamed on a lack of an elaborate Early Warning System in Addis Ababa despite the wide knowledge on the factors of conflict — human rights violations and poor governance, border disputes, effects of climate change and political infighting.
Hanna Tetteh, the Head of the UN Office at the AU, questioned the ability of the continental body to utilise the tools it has and to distinguish what the AU is protecting. “Are we protecting human rights, state security or regime security? We can move early warning into early action,” she said.
She added that the AU must prove to the UN and other stakeholders that it has assets that they can use in partnership. “We cannot say we didn’t see Guinea, Sudan or Ethiopia happening. We see these things but the Commission does not act. AU should be able to speak the truth to African leaders,” she said.
An earlier commitment by African governments to silence the guns by December 2020 failed miserably, forcing the AU to extend the initiative for another 10 years, till 2030. The objective of the Silencing the Guns Initiative is a conflict-free Africa, prevention of genocide, making peace a reality for all and ridding the continent of wars and humanitarian disasters.
Dr Admore Kambuzi, the former director of Peace and Security Disarmament at the AU, said that the infrastructure is there and there are specific conflicts where there is a need to silence the guns and some that can be prevented through good governance, respect for human rights and improvement of the socio-economic well-being of the youth.
In West Africa for instance, despite gains made in eroding the capacity of Boko Haram to cause civil mayhem in Nigeria, the operations of the terrorist group expanded into neighbouring countries including Cameroon, Niger and Chad. Terrorists have also gained new ground in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province.
Former presidents said that they see the security issues differently now. Former Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan said that some politicians, in their quest for manipulate the population and introduce corruption and impunity. He castigated those seeking extra terms in office by changing the law.
Ernest Bai Koroma, who was the president of Sierra Leone between 2007 and 2018 asked, “Are we bold enough to speak truth to sitting presidents? The AU issues statements and sanctions after coups like in Guinea, Mali and Sudan, but has it changed anything?”
Catherine Samba Panza, the former president of Central Africa Republic who led the country for the interim period between 2014 and 2016, said that Africa does not have preventive measures “because we get out of a crisis, only to fall into the next.”
According to the latest analysis by Amani Africa, the security situation in Africa in the year of silencing the guns 2020 became bleaker than it was in the preceding years. Yet African leaders had pledged, rather ambitiously, not to bequeath the burden of conflicts to the next generation. From North Africa to West Africa, the Sahel the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes, the guns are getting louder making a mockery of the theme.
Dr Admore Kambuzi, the former director of Peace and Security Disarmament at the AU, said that there are specific conflicts where there is a need to silence the guns and some that can be prevented through good governance, respect for human rights and improvement of the socio-economic well-being of the youth.