Harare, (New Ziana) – Zimbabwe and a majority of African countries on Sunday backed plans by the African Union (AU) to extend the duration of its flagship project to silence guns by 10 years after the initial target expires this year, with the objective not having been met.
African leaders, met virtually for the continental body’s 14th extra-ordinary summit that specifically dealt with the initiative to end war on the continent, amid calls for more decisive steps to be taken to address unending conflict and rising cases of terrorism.
The AU adopted “Silencing the guns” as one of its major projects in 2013, and four years later adopted AU Master Roadmap of Practical Steps for Silencing the Guns in Africa by the Year 2020.
But current AU chairman and South Africa President, Cyril Ramaphosa told the summit that while progress had been made, guns were not yet silent.
It has been proposed that the project be extended by 10 years and reviewed after every two years.
“As we gather here, we all know that the guns are not yet silent. In some areas peace has been achieved, but considerable challenges still confront us,” Ramaphosa said.
“There are shortcomings in implementation that must be addressed urgently because they diminish our ability to consolidate peace, prevent the recurrence of violent conflict, build social cohesion, deepen democracy and advance economic development.”
AU Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat said the continent needed to improve on dialogue among protagonists in conflict situations, deal with poor governance, corruption, under development among other ills that continued to create room for conflict.
“Climate change and other natural disasters as well as the outbreak of pandemics such as Covid-19 added to the fragility of Africa,” he said.
Zimbabwean President, Emmerson Mnangagwa said “realistic, practical and responsive interventions have become essential” to silence the guns.
“My country welcomes and supports the proposal to extend the tenure of the implementation of the African Union Master Roadmap of Practical Steps to Silence the Guns in Africa, 2021-2030,” he said.
It was imperative, he said, that the AU continues to reduce its reliance on external funders for its peace and security programmes.
“Let us remain wary of external forces who continue to fund and fuel conflicts and disharmony on the continent for their own neo-colonial interests,” he said.
“Informed by our rich history and liberation struggle, the time has come for Africa to more consciously defend our right to self determination and the unfettered exploitation, development and use of our God given natural resources.”
Various other leaders including Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi, Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Nana Akufo- Addo of Ghana emphasised the need to deal with developmental issues as a means to reducing conflict on the continent.
“Conflict cannot be ended by treating the symptoms or cleaning up messes after the fact,” Kagame said.
“The only sustainable way to silence the guns in Africa is to deal directly and swiftly with the political and economic factors that create the conditions for violence and strife in the first place.”
The leaders lauded progress that has been made in strengthening the AU peace and security apparatus and in capacitating the AU Peace Fund.
Concerns were raised on the unresolved conflict hotspots in Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Western Sahara, Libya, Central African Republic and Mozambique.