FILE - Executive Secretary of the West African countries Mohamed Ibn Chambas attends a media conference at the EU Foreign Ministers meeting in Valkenburg, the Netherlands, Sept. 4, 2004. The goal of silencing the guns in Africa this decade is being challenged by climate change, terrorism, coups and the continent’s history, the head of the African Union initiative told the U.N. Security Council on Thursday, March 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Yves Logghe, File)BY EDITH M. LEDERER
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The goal of silencing the guns in Africa this decade is being challenged by climate change, terrorism, coups and the continent’s history, the head of the African Union initiative told the U.N. Security Council on Thursday.
Attaining the goal is at risk even after the date was pushed back once to 2030, Mohamed Ibn Chambas said. He pointed to constitutional, institutional and cultural challenges as well as “Africa’s vulnerability to global economic shocks” — and weak implementation of international, national and regional decisions on peace, security and development.
Silencing the guns was a key initiative in the vision for “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa” adopted by AU leaders in May 2013. Called Agenda 2063, it originally stated that all guns would be silenced in 2023, but in December 2020 the AU decided to extend the date to 2030.
That’s the same year the United Nations set to achieve its 17 major development goals that are also lagging, including ending poverty, ensuring secondary education for all children, achieving gender equality, and providing affordable and clean energy.
Chambas told the Security Council that when AU leaders adopted the silencing the guns initiative “they were motivated by the desire to bequeath future generations of Africans a continent free of wars and conflicts.”
The objective was to work toward “an Africa at peace with itself and with the rest of the world,” he said, but today multiple challenges have put that goal at risk, starting with the widening gap between rich and poorer nations, and between elites and marginalized people and communities within countries.
For example, Chambas said, the COVID-19 pandemic “pushed 55 million Africans into poverty in 2020 and reversed more than two decades of progress in poverty reduction on the continent.” He said “equally alarming is the fact that 15 African countries are reportedly at risk of debt distress,” and today the continent’s debt is more than $600 billion.
Chambas urged stepped up efforts to reduce inequalities and make new investments in education, technology and health while ensuring Africa’s young population could attain decent jobs. He also urged a crackdown on illegal financial flows that deprive the continent of approximately $90 billion annually.
He said Africa should shift from exporting raw materials to exporting manufactured goods and processed agricutural products, which would require investment in cross-border infrastruture. Chambas said Africa should produce its own food, calling it “untenable,” that a continent with 60% of the world’s remaining arable lands and many rivers and freshwater bodies is dependent on grain imports.
The AU high representative for implementing the silencing the guns initiative said achieving the goal also depends on addressing recent coups and unconstitutional changes in government and countering the scourge of terrorism, and the internal and external factors causing conflict and instability in Africa.
Armed conflict looms large across the continent. Jihadi insurgencies plague Somalia, Nigeria, Mozambique, Burkina Faso which had two coups last year, and Mali whose leader seized power in a 2020 coup. The extremist violence threatened to spread to even more countries while militias continue fighting in mineral-rich eastern Congo.
Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi, who chaired the council meeting, told members on Tuesday that the global terrorism threat “remains more critical” in Africa. He pointed to one global terrorism index that showed 40% of victims last year were African and called the Sahel region “the new epicenter of terrorist attacks.”
Chambas said he believes Mozambique’s successful peace process with former rebel movement Renamo “could be a model for lesson sharing on our continent” – a view echoed by Mirko Manzoni, the personal envoy of U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to Mozambique.
Nyusi urged all African leaders on Thursday to resolve the causes that lead to feelings of injustice, social inequality and exclusion that fuel conflicts, and “to fast track the silencing of the guns once and for all.”