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‘Silencing the guns’: African Union to extend deadline for peace on continent by another 10 years | News24

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AU chairperson, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa

  • SA is hosting two African Union summits – on
    silencing the guns, as well as free trade on the continent.
  • AU member states will extend their deadline for
    peace on the continent from the end of this year, to 2030.
  • Civil society actors say they should be consulted
    ahead of summits on this matter.

African Union (AU) member states look set to extend
their year-end deadline for peace on the continent by another decade, when
leaders gather via Zoom this weekend for two back-to-back summits hosted by AU
chairperson, President Cyril Ramaphosa.

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They are also expected to call on the AU’s Peace
and Security Council to name and shame those who pose a threat to security on
the continent.

The extraordinary summit on “silencing the
guns” is due to take place on Sunday and is expected to adopt a
Johannesburg Declaration to “reaffirm their commitment to contributing to
an Africa free of conflict and wars”, Ramaphosa’s office said in a
statement.

The preceding summit on Saturday laid the legal basis
for the operationalisation of the African Continental Free Trade Area on New
Year’s Day. The summits were originally planned for the end of May and were
supposed to have marked one of the highlights of Ramaphosa’s year-long tenure
as AU chairperson, but they had to be postponed due to the Covid-19 lockdowns
at the time.

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Rachel Morake, a director in the Department of
International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco), told an Institute for Security
Studies (ISS) webinar on Thursday that the AU had acknowledged its aim of
silencing the guns could not be realised by the end of this year.

She said:

Already, some of the practical steps that were supposed to be carried out during the course of 2020 were inhibited by the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic. The AU has resolved to extend the goal for silencing the guns to 2030.

The continental body will also take stock of how
the process is going every two years, starting in 2021.

Foreign influences

Africa Amnesty Month in September, which provides a
window for the collection and disposal of illegal arms, will also be extended
for another 10 years.

Morake said cybercrime, organised crime, money
laundering, illicit financial flows and human trafficking also affected the
AU’s goals to attain peace in Africa. At the beginning of the year, Ramaphosa
announced that he would prioritise the conflicts in Libya and South Sudan while
at the helm of the AU.

His tenure this year also coincided with South
Africa’s second and final year on the United Nations Security Council. Other
than naming and shaming, however, the African Union lacks teeth to sanction
those who contribute to conflict on the continent.

There is also concern within the AU about foreign
influences in African peace and security matters, including foreign military
bases in a number of countries on the continent. The summit is expected to
encourage member states to consult with their regional neighbours before
agreeing to host such bases, to ensure that these are serving the interests of
the continent.

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News24 has reliably learnt that the summit is
expected to consider mandating the AU Peace and Security Council to name and
shame those states which deny a growing crisis within their borders, as well as
foreign entities which interfere in the internal affairs of AU member states,
or who sponsor illegal weapons and provide covert military support to armed
groups on the continent.

Mozambique has, for instance, refused to
acknowledge that the conflict in its northern Cabo Delgado province is a crisis,
which has made it difficult for other countries to get involved to help.

The summit has, however, already come in for
criticism from academics and civil society players who want to give greater
inputs.

‘Negative peace, rather than positive peace’

Wafula Okumu, from the Centre of African Studies at
the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, told the ISS webinar it wasn’t
entirely clear what the AU meant by “silencing the guns”. He also
said the body’s peace and security agenda “is geared towards achievement
of negative peace, rather than positive peace”.

He said most AU member states failed to honour
their pledges for peace, while others either maintained or increased high
military and security expenditure. Okumo said there were 40 million firearms in
civilian hands in Africa, half the number of that in Europe, yet the latter was
more peaceful.

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Most of the weapons used in Africa come from
outside the continent, with Russia (at 49%) being the biggest supplier.

Okumu said South Africa was the top arms
manufacturer and exporter in Africa, but that in 26 countries there was a
“thriving production of homemade guns, mostly used in robberies,
pastoralist farmer violence, intercommunal violence and conflicts, political
banditry and other criminal activities”.

Doris Mpoumou, from Save the Children
International, said civil society should have been given a chance to take part
in a pre-summit ahead of Sunday to give their inputs. She said access to
information was also a problem.

“There are many blocks and hurdles to access
information to collaborate with the AU. Because we know what is happening in
the communities, we can actually provide information that we get from the
communities to decision-makers,” she said.

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