African nations race to silence guns by 2020


As African Union’s (AU) master goal to silence the guns in the continent by 2020 draws nearer, the official responsible for the project expresses satisfaction with the progress and is hopeful to meet the deadline.

In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, Ramtane Lamamra, AU high representative for Silencing the Guns in Africa, claimed that over the next one year, Africa, known for conflicts and bloodshed, is ready to shed its image.

He noted the continent has made progress in preventing, managing, and resolving conflicts, citing peace agreements in South Sudan and Central African Republic, and peaceful elections in Madagascar and Congo.

At the 50th anniversary of the AU in 2013, the heads of states had set an ambitious goal to make Africa conflict free through an elaborate road map. The first goal was to silence the guns on the continent by 2020.

Lamamra — who served as foreign minister of Algeria from 2013-2017 and is credited for playing a prominent role in regional mediation efforts, including leading them in Mali — said a mechanism of putting checks on the movement of weapons to Africa has been put in place.

“Africa does not manufacture weapons. The guns come illegally through traffickers, terrorists and other private actors. By identifying points of illegal arms trade, it is possible to achieve the silencing of the guns and create peaceful and stable Africa,” he said.

Lamamra — who has previously served as AU’s commissioner for Peace and Security from 2008-2013 to oversee mediation efforts with the help of the UN — said in addition to putting checks on the gun racketing network, he was working hard on the demand side.

“By addressing issues to settle conflicts, we will automatically reduce demand for guns. This will make it difficult for arms smugglers to find buyers,” he said.

Conflict prevention

Elaborating on his work, Lamamra, who has been Algeria’s envoy at the UN as well as in Washington, said the AU has developed an efficient and a compressive legal instrument to cope up with the requirement of conflict prevention, its management and peace making.

The mechanism also talks about mediation, peace keeping and post conflict reconstruction. “We have developed an understanding to use mediation tools to prevent conflicts and have made it sure that all parties accept and abide by treaties and political agreements,” he said.

Lamamra, who was in Turkey to participate in the Istanbul Mediation Conference, said the AU was focused to prevent conflicts and to achieve this goal it has set up early warning mechanisms. He said the next stage will be to disarm various groups that is also imperative for making African a peaceful continent.

Former diplomat said he had negotiations with various weapon exporting countries and succeeded to convince them to put checks on their sales. “We had a consensus to address legitimate needs of sovereign states to acquire weapons to defend their national integrity and the need to dry supplies to terrorist and criminals.”

Russia accounts for 35% of arms exports to Africa, followed by China with 17%, the U.S. with 9.6% and France with 6.9%. At the recently concluded two-day African summit in the Russian coastal city of Sochi, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed military agreements with 30 African countries.

While ensuring checks on the spilling out of the military hardware to criminals and gangs, Lamamra said he also worked with the moral and political part of the roadmap to make a situation where arms don’t find buyers.

“I began with convincing African governments to conceive a future, without armed conflicts, address every problem without violence and find a peaceful and political solution to every problem in their backyard,” he said.

Since the end of the Cold War in 1991, conflicts have cost more than $100 billion to Africa. Across the continent, some 9 million people have been displaced by various conflicts, according to data collected by Oxfam, an international confederation of NGOs working to reduce poverty.
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