Africa Amnesty Month for Silencing the Guns – Important Prerequisites…

Dear friends;

The Peace and Security Council of  the African Union has just launched the “African Amnesty Month” for the Surrender and the Collection of Illicit Weapons in the framework of the African Union Master Roadmap for silencing the guns in Africa by 2020.

I have had the honor to address the Council at that occasion as an invited Guest Speaker. I am sharing  here my presentation made on the 4th September 2017 at the African Union Headquarter. 

Your comments are welcome on this blog or by email to assogbavi@me.com

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Your Excellency, Madam Chairperson of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union; Honorable Members of the Peace and Security Council; Ladies and Gentlemen,All protocols observed.

Only 1/3 of all small arms in circulation today are in the hands of legally constituted security forces… the remaining 2/3 are held illegally by non-state actors or individuals and this is cause for concern because, the use of these weapons, directly and indirectly affects hundreds of thousands of people and severely undermines our commitments for sustainable development. So, the declaration of an Africa Amnesty Month for the surrender and collection of illegally owned weapons is an important step in the search for peace and security in Africa….

But, having looked at the decision of the Assembly on the Roadmap for silencing the Gun, the provision on Amnesty month seems to be the only provision with identified real actions with some accountability mechanisms.

Provisions relating to the root causes, or the origins of African conflicts are included, but unfortunately, they are vaguely treated… with no accountability mechanism or tracking system for implementation.

Madam Chair; a few years ago, the African Union had decided to launch a campaign named “Make Peace Happen”… in which we all participated but peace did not happen.

Every 6 months, the AUC presents a report on the state of peace and security in the continent, to the Assembly, and decisions are made accordingly …peace is still not happening… So, for the “Silencing the Guns” campaign to happen we must do something differently, we must do something courageous…. Maybe a bit painful…, in order to have a different result.

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The Assembly’s decision suggested that people who surrender their illegally owned weapons shall not be subjected to disclosure, humiliation, arrest or prosecution… that is a great incentive !!! but there is not the problem…

People are not holding on their gun today because they are afraid of prosecution… they keep holding and trusting the guns, mostly because their problems remain unsolved by the states, by power holders…

In fact, many weapon bearers do not consider their actions illegal but rather legitimate against:

  • The inequitable sharing of national resources
  • The confiscation of state power and state resources by an individual or group of individuals
  • The modern form of unconstitutional change of government manifested today by “fraudulent or cosmetic elections” to sustain unlimited terms on power …. often with the blessing by our regional and continental bodies through election observation that mostly look at just the voting operations, always “declared free and fair”

Madame Chair; if we stick to the current decision only, and to the the way we use to do business, I am afraid we will come back here in September 2020 or 2021, only to realize that guns are not silenced in our continent….

This means that the journey to 2063 will become longer than planned … the promises contained in the Agendas 2063 and 2030 will remain beautiful dreams. As a result, the mistrust of our populations, especially the youth, in our institutions, regional and continental bodies, will increase…. Affected and marginalized populations will continue trusting nothing else but the guns.

In DRC for example we do not need further research to know that, without a credible election and an alternation of power, there is no hope for peace… and it is unlikely for those who hold the guns, there, to surrender them… This also holds true for South Sudan Sudan, Burundi and so on. Of course, there are different scenarios and different realities in other part of the continent, that would not necessarily be resolved through election alone…

In many other countries in our continent, unlimited presidential terms reinforced by unfair elections constitute a real risk for fragility that will not contribute in silencing the gun by 2020.

Ladies and Gentlemen; availability of arms does not necessarily create conflicts. But their proliferation and their uncontrolled circulation can lead to a more rapid spread of violence and, magnify their devastating effects, and, of course, countries are less safe if weapons are easily available. However, conflicts that are going on in Africa have not started just because arms were available… in fact, arms come in later in most of the cases. So, without courageous actions to deal with the origins of the conflicts, efforts to collect arms in the framework of our Amnesty month will not bring us any tangible result. Strategically, collecting arms cannot come first in the implementation of our Roadmap.

Madam Chair, I may disappoint you today because I have not prepared any specific suggestions on how the Amnesty month can be organized, because I do not believe we are there yet. Rather, I would like to use the following illustration to demonstrate that, there are unavoidable prerequisites, that we should meet first, before voluntary arms collection can be effective, and these fit well within the objective # 4 of this Open Session.

Let’s consider that our Master Roadmap for silencing the guns can be implemented within a symbolic calendar year from January to December, including September as the month of Amnesty for the collection of illegally owned small arms…You would see at the end, that in fact, September is an excellent choice….

Illustration for a strategic sequencing of prerequisites for guns to be silenced in Africa within a symbolic calendar year

See powerpoint here: https://www.slideshare.net/DesireAssogbavi/prerequisites-for-silencing-the-gun-in-africa

January and February:  Constitutions and laws of all member states of the African Union guaranty all civil and political rights for all citizens with no discrimination. This also means that peaceful demonstrations can be held whenever citizens are not happy about the conduct of public affairs on a particular area, without intimidation or violence against citizens…

March and April: Justice systems of all member states are made fully independent and free of undue pressure from the executive in their functioning. Human rights violators and criminals are effectively prosecuted regardless of their social and political status and reparation for victims is ensured at national level… As this happens constantly, the ICC will go bankrupt and will probably close!

May – June: State institutions set up socioeconomic and legal mechanisms to tackle inequality and extreme poverty, and to combat corruption at all levels. Illicit Financial Flows are significantly reduced… Heavy investments are made from national resources, supported by international south-south and north-south cooperation, to ensure essential services, mainly, education, infrastructures and health are accessible for all citizens including our leaders.

July: Credible elections are normally held and managed by independent electoral boards with no interference… and results of the pools reflect the true choice of the people… but, minorities are respected and deliberately protected and given opportunity to participate in public affairs through different other institutions, by the law and affirmative actions… This naturally lead to a situation where, elections are influenced more by political agendas and not by ethnic origins.  Losers of elections including former heads of state or opposition leaders are treated with dignity, respected and enjoy state protection, but they are held accountable if they are responsible for crimes.

August: Innovative programs create diverse and quality education and training opportunities. Private sector is regulated, accompanied and encouraged to create increasing job opportunities for the youth.  State institutions ensure equal opportunity to citizens with no discrimination, to be employed and engaged in public affairs

Then comes September: The Amnesty Month! Following the AU Assembly decisions on the Roadmap for silencing the Gun… People who have small arms and light weapons illegally — voluntarily surrender them … This is consolidated by the setting up of justice and accountability mechanisms adapted to each national context and traditions, including transitional justice…. Reparation for victims is guaranteed.

October: The African Union Treaty on Free Movements of people and goods is adopted and fully implemented all over the continent… The Pan African Passport is delivered promptly upon request… Interaction between peoples of different nationalities and regions of the continent catalyzes strong opportunities of learning, creates synergy, and boosts our economic integration… Young people feel no need to immigrate… No death recorded in the Mediterranean Sea or in the Sahara Desert and, a good part of the diaspora comes back to take part in the reconstruction of the continent.

November: The African Union gains trust from its citizens and becomes a truly people driven body, and effective to ensure the implementation of its decisions by member states… A genuine and effective space is provided for citizens and their formations to be part of the decision-making process… But this means that the AU has declared illegal, all draconian laws  against CSOs in member states, and pushed countries to abolish them, then replace them by provisions that respect universally agreed freedom of association… while ensuring accountably of NGOs…

Madam Chair, in December: Guns will be surely silenced in Africa…

I thank you!

Opinions in this presentation are absolutely personal.