”Silencing the Guns” Still Not Prospering

AA/ Dakar / Alioune Ndiaye

They are still numerous to prosper on the continent, the divergences and conflicts between States. This is despite policy making and implementing decisions aimed at ensuring that Africa achieves Aspiration 4 of Agenda 2063.

To this agenda deployed by the African Union (AU) – entity created following the declaration of Sirte (Libya) on September 9, 1999 -, the aspiration of an “Africa living in peace and security” by resorting mechanisms to promote a dialogue-centred approach to conflict prevention and resolution and the establishment of a culture of peace and tolerance nurtured among children and young people in Africa through education for peace.

According to a report by a group of researchers from the University of Hamburg (Germany) a dozen war situations are taking place in the continent in 2020; making it the hardest hit continent. The total of armed conflicts in the world amounting to 29 according to this report.

Ethiopia/ Egypt, DR Congo / Rwanda, Nigeria/ Cameroon, Morocco/ Polisario Front … not to mention the many internal conflicts and the terrorist threat that prevails in the Sahel: the flagship initiative of Agenda 2063, namely “Silencing the guns by 2020” drawn up at the creation of the AU has remained mere wishful thinking. Two decades after the deadline, hotbeds of tension abound on the continent to the chagrin of the AU, which seems powerless to take up the challenge.

“For many conflict situations, the AU is disarmed or does not have the credibility to solve the problem (…) It is not enough to simply set up commissions or develop policies. All of this is useless if the States are not ready to accept them”, launched peremptorily Souleymane Sagna, consultant for human rights and conflicts programs, pointing in vein to the responsibility of the Member States.

– Ethnic considerations

“To play the role of arbitrator, the parties must give you confidence and accept your authority, but unfortunately, in my humble opinion, our States do not respect the institutions they have put in place”, he said. he continued in a statement to Anadolu Agency.

While he admits that the complexity of the dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia is linked to a problem of “security”, the expert is of the opinion that, in several other cases, it is ethnic considerations that are at issue. origin of conflicts.

“We see that certain conflicts between States are often the result of inter-ethnic and cross-border conflicts which reach a stage where the States which are behind and which support them end up endorsing them”, explained Sagna, citing in this register what takes place between the DRC and Rwanda and generally in the Great Lakes area.

“We had this kind of problem between Nigeria and Cameroon in the Cabinda enclave, between Mali and Burkina too,” he noted.

– The socio-political dimension of the 1970s

He also notes that in addition to ethnic causes, conflicts have their origins elsewhere. Control of highly profitable minerals, games of the great powers, uncertain democratic transitions are indeed all causes of conflict in Africa, not to mention the jihadist danger.

On this last point, Bakary Sambe, regional director of the Timbuktu Institute, calls for an analysis from a historical perspective to better understand the phenomenon.

“We can only understand what is currently happening in the Sahel if we take into account the socio-political dimension of the 1970s,” said the founder of the Observatory of Radicalism and Religious Conflicts in Africa, referring to a Sahel strongly struck at the time by droughts and starved of support by Western partner countries themselves facing a financial and oil crisis at that time.

“The international community, which seemed not to have understood that the situation was getting worse, added to it. Structural adjustment policies have been imposed on the countries of the Sahel. Our countries were told to invest as little as possible in social, health and education,” he said, assuring that these measures have brought neither development nor even less stability.

He thus made it known that the Sahel had thus become a fertile ground for terrorism because of the frustrations and rejection of the State by the populations. “Even before the war on terrorism, the state thus lost the battle for winning hearts and minds,” he said.

Sambe mentioned as factors of radicalism those inciting such as grievances, frustrations, bad governance, poverty, etc. and pull factors that come in pseudo-responses to lost hopes like ‘build a better life’ or ‘get justice’.

“From the start, ‘all-military’ strategies aimed at suppressing terrorist groups did not succeed. On the contrary, terrorist groups have multiplied. We therefore found ourselves in a rather complex security dynamic where States, already weakened by structural adjustment policies and by the surprise of the arrival of terrorist movements, began to seek alternative ways of security management by developing self-defense militias,” he recalled.

Faced with this violent extremism which has set the entire Sahel zone ablaze by extending its tentacles towards West Africa (Côte d’Ivoire, Togo, Benin), an approach other than arms must prevail, so the director of Timbuktu Institute understands.

– Conflict resolution mechanisms questioned

“International partners very quickly focused on the fight against terrorism, which is different from the prevention of violent extremism. The fight against terrorism deals with its effects and this comes down to taking out targets that can regenerate. While the prevention of violent extremism addresses the structural causes,” he explained.

“We must give a chance to other strategies that involve education, endogenous resources, peaceful means of conflict resolution, but also awareness-raising”, thus lavished the expert.

Returning to the mechanisms for resolving conflicts, mainly those involving neighboring countries, Souleymane Sagna points to the AU’s inability to create interposition and peace enforcement forces in Africa.

“The problem is a lack of responsiveness on the part of the AU. We need a delegation of power in order to be able to operationalize interposition and peace enforcement forces when a conflict breaks out between two countries,” he said.

He thus recalled the ECOWAS Ceasefire Monitoring Brigade (ECOMOG) created in 1990 and having played a major role in the pacification of the area.

“When West Africa flared up at a certain time, ECOWAS took the lead in setting up a force called Ecomog which was able to greatly appease the area, especially in Liberia and Sierra Leone”, s remembered Sagna, regretting that the development community of southern Africa or the community of Central African states have not been able to implement such a force despite the conflicts.

“Reflection (on conflict resolution) for the AU is to go beyond simple conflicts between States to impose itself and not let the EU or the UN, for example, come to the rescue” , pointed out the expert in human rights and conflicts.

– Waiting for the common African force

Speaking last Friday, during a press briefing ahead of the Dakar Forum on Peace and Security to be held in October 2022, Aissata Tall Sall, Senegalese Minister of Foreign Affairs, again mentioned the African Joint Standby Force.

“We have at the African Union what is called an African standby force, but two things are needed for this force to work: men and funding”, she said, calling on States to react to the operationality of this force which will be in the foreground to restore peace and security in African States in the event of conflicts.

In a message published on the occasion of the African day, the chairperson of the AU commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat indicated that the fight against terrorism is high on the rank of priorities and this because of the negative impacts on other development sectors of the continent.


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