AU Chairman, President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa
- SA is hosting two summits in the African Union – on silencing arms and free trade on the continent.
- AU countries will extend their deadline for peace on the continent from the end of this year until 2030.
- Civil society actors say they should be consulted before summits on this issue.
The African Union (AU) member states look forward to extending their end date for peace on the continent by another decade, as leaders gather via Zoom this weekend for two back-to-back summits hosted by AU President Cyril Ramaphosa.
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 weapons” will take place on Sunday and is expected to adopt a Johannesburg Declaration to “reaffirm its commitment to contribute to a conflict-free Africa and war”, Ramaphosa’s office said in a statement.
The previous summit on Saturday laid the legal foundation for the operationalization of the African continental free trade area on New Year’s Day. The summits were originally scheduled for the end of May and would have marked one of the highlights of Ramaphosa’s year-long tenure as AU chairman, but they had to be postponed due to Covid-19 deadlock at that time.
Rachel Morake, director of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco), told a seminar at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) on Thursday that AU had recognized its goal that silent weapons could not be realized by the end of this year. .
Some of the practical steps to be taken in 2020 were already hampered by the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic. The AU has decided to extend the target for silencing weapons by 2030.
The continental body will also make an overview of how the process goes every two years, starting in 2021.
Africa’s amnesty month in September, which provides a window for the collection and disposal of illegal weapons, will also be extended for another ten years.
Morake said cybercrime, organized crime, money laundering, illegal economic flows and human trafficking also influenced the AU’s goal of achieving peace in Africa. Earlier this year, Ramaphosa announced that he would prioritize the conflicts in Libya and South Sudan while at the helm of the AU.
His time this year also coincided with South Africa’s second and final year in the UN Security Council. In addition to naming and shame, however, the African Union lacks teeth to sanction those who contribute to conflicts on the continent.
There are also concerns within the AU about foreign influence in African peace and security issues, 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 neighbors before agreeing to host such bases, in order to ensure that they serve the interests of the continent.
News24 has reliably learned that the summit is expected to consider giving a mandate to the AU’s Peace and Security Council to name and shame the states that deny a growing crisis within their borders, as well as foreign entities that intervene in the AU’s internal affairs. affairs, or which sponsors illegal weapons and provides covert military support to armed groups on the continent.
Mozambique, for example, has refused to acknowledge that the conflict in the northern province of Cabo Delgado is a crisis, which has made it difficult for other countries to get involved in helping.
However, the summit has already received criticism from academics and civil society actors who want to make greater efforts.
‘Negative peace rather than positive peace’
Wafula Okumu, from the Center for African Studies at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, told the ISS webinar that it was not entirely clear what the AU meant by “silencing weapons”. He also said that the body’s peace and security agenda “is focused on achieving negative peace rather than positive peace”.
He said most AU member states failed to keep their promises of peace, while others either maintained or increased high military and security spending. Okumo said there were 40 million firearms in civilian hands in Africa, half the number in Europe, but the latter was more peaceful.
Most weapons used in Africa come from outside the continent, with Russia (49%) being the largest supplier.
Okumu said that South Africa was the leading arms manufacturer and exporter in Africa, but that in 26 countries there was a “flourishing production of homemade weapons, mostly used in robberies, violence and violence and conflicts between municipalities, political bandits and other criminal activities”. .
Doris Mpoumou, from Save the Children International, said civil society should have had a chance to attend a pre-Sunday summit to make its contribution. She said access to information was also a problem.
“There are many blocks and barriers to accessing information to collaborate with the AU. Because we know what’s going on in communities, we can actually provide information that we get from communities to decision makers,” she said.
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