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African Union “Silencing the Guns”program: Is it a hope for the future of Africa’s peace and security?




Authors: Chen Xi, (PhD) and Yeheys Nardos Hawaz*

The African Union Agenda 2063, which began in 2013, has only two years to complete its first 10-year plan. Agenda 2063 is unprecedented and aimed to make Africa a place of peace and democracy over time.  Particularly, the ten-year plan includes one of the most promising changes in the first ten years in the peace and security sector which is “Silencing the Guns.” It is becoming more and more common to see conflict in Africa, and it is putting a lot of pressure on the African Union’s security sector. Conflict is characterized by a lack of good governance,  economic and other factors, and is exacerbated by coups, economic factors, terrorism, and border wars.

The African Peace and Security Architecture have developed and implemented five strategic priorities and indicators for the 2016–2020 roadmap to address these issues. These roadmaps consisted of strategies for conflict prevention, management, post-conflict peacebuilding, strategic security issues, and coordination and partnership. The strategies also supported the first ten-year plan for Agenda 2063. In this ten-year plan, there were three goals in the field of peace and security, each with its own set of priorities. These goals are, in principle, unparalleled and can make a big difference unless faced obstacles due to political instability in the performance of member states due to their negligence or lack of cooperation.

At the national and continental level, the target for Silencing the Guns, in particular, was planned for 2020, but the current situation shows the opposite from the beginning. Even since 2014 (with in the first ten-year plan of Agenda 2063), the 2015 Burundian uprising, the 2017 Cabo Delgado military base crisis in Mozambique, the 2017 Pool War in Congo Brazzaville, the South Sudan conflict, the security situation in Somalia, and more recently in Ethiopia, the 2020 war in Tigray could be mentioned. Along with such events, the coup in Mali, and  the 2018 uprising revolution in Sudan, have hampered the organazation’s role. The ongoing wars in various parts of the continent continue to hamper the work of the youth, causing them to become unemployed and displaced, to be expelled from school, to create opportunities for the proliferation of illegal weapons, and to cause a humanitarian crisis. These conflicts can be seen in two ways.

The internal problem of member states as a challenge

One of the challenges to Silencing the Guns flagship projects is the ongoing conflict in each country. The reasons that hinder this goal are varied and complex in each country. However, the lack of political readiness, cooperation and responsibility which widen the gap between the government and the people, could easily lead to a public crisis.  Attempts to extend the lifespan of the regime in an unconstitutional manner, the widespread unemployment among the youth, which more likely enhances the involvement in violence, and arms trafficking can be cited as a source and means conflicts continue to be a challenge.

While conflict is ongoing, the conflict management techniques often exacerbate the situation. It is important to narrow the gap between civil and the military in  member states in order toenhance public cooperation. By far, Military’s are feared rather than respect in Africa. The fear is, not a matter of respect for the military, but of the threat of  power. When a few soldiers misuse their uniforms and titles in each country, the negative impact on the community will even degrade the personality of the masses. In particular, the military’s reputation is eroded by efforts to quell popular uprisings and protests. The community portrayed the soldier as the only guardian of the government. Members need to read such gaps quickly.

While Silencing the Guns is a priority for every member state in Africa and for the overall well-being of its citizens, the extent to which some governments contribute to the effectiveness of this agenda is poor. The recent coup in Mali, the October 2020 uprising in Nigeria, the current uprising in Darfur, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Somalia, Libya, and other countries indicate much work to be done in the security sector.

Cross-border conflicts as a challenge

While the commitment to peace and democracy-building, the minimal attempt to conflict prevention as well as weak management of conflict management strategies thwarted the purpose of the union, the first ten years are only left with two years to be completed.

Conflicts between nations are rooted in cross-border resources and colonial-era treaties. These two fundamental factors prevent the resolution of conflicts between nations. Based on natural resources, member states  focused on national interests, rather than narrowing differences and creating common interests. Potential natural resources can indeed help the growth of not only countries but also on regional benefits.

The crisis caused by the colonial border agreement in Africa is not to be overlooked. It has not only settled the same people in different countries but also made majorities in one country minority in another. Such issues are particularly prevalent in the Horn of Africa which gradually escalates into a full-blown sectarian conflict.

Another concern is terrorism. In terms of terrorism, the situation in Boko haram , and al-Shabaab in Somalia is can be raised. Al-Shabaab has not been able to eliminate even with the presence of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). The group is slowly recovering and is a threat to all neighboring countries as  Kenya and Ethiopia have launched separate military campaigns before AMISOM.

Institutional Challenges

The African Union is strong in institutional capacity. However, the performance of the divisions within the organazation is not the same. Whether the idea is directly attributed to the readiness or non-cooperation of member states, or institutional monitoring and support of the union, there is a lack of active participation of member states according to the organazation’s plan. For example, the African Union Convention on Cross-Border Cooperation, which was launched in 2014, has been signed by only 17countries, with only 5 ratification of its members. According to this Convention, multi-sectoral Africa problems can be easily controlled and eliminated. Nevertheless, why are there so many differences of opinion? Of course, this is either a commitment of the members,a political readiness as stated above or a lack of continues support from the institution. The union should close these gaps in its organazational structure.

Lack of professional mediation in the event of a conflict between countries; constant professional support during the mediation process; the deployment of mediation and defense diplomacy interventions, including flexible funding are mentioned as the current challenges on the road maps of the Union’s peace and security sector. If these challenges are not addressed quickly, it will have a significant impact on the support of member states, which will hamper conflict prevention and resolution. The institutional organazation should be emphasized that empowerment is the most important issue in the sector.

Is there any hope for the future?

  The current situation in various parts of Africa is alarming, but it is not disappointing. Significant changes have taken place in the past. It is hoped that better conditions will be created along the way. However, flashing conflicts continue. Current security problems cannot predict the future of Africa. Agenda 2063 is expected to bring much-needed change if a great deal of effort is made. Silencing the Gun is one of the plans in peace and security sector, and the efforts of the member states will facilitate the journey of the organazation. Although the African Union is strong enough to withstand these challenges, the situation in each country still needs to be addressed to achieve the goal.

The African Union (AU) needs the full participation of member states, as it is common for civil strife to escalate. While the AU is working to maintain peace in conflict zones, it is important to focus on the political commitment of members state in pre-conflict areas. In the fight against conflict, politicians, elites, and activists take the lead, and these bodies need to have the same position in the country’s politics. Ensuring public participation in the political arena also prevents civil unrest.

The Challenge on regional integration is also the other factor that need to be addressed effectively. As regional integration become stronger, so does the relationship between countries. This not only reduces conflict but also helps prevent all unnecessary political interference.

The African Union (AU) needs to be more proactive in dealing with cross-border settlements and colonial agreements. Cross-border conflicts are often associated with these, so it would be good if natural resources and border issues were prepared before the conflict. It is known that the African Union has decided to maintain colonial colonial agreements. However, border problems still exist. The Union Boundary Program is working on this, but such issues are likely to continue. Stimulation work can be done on this declaration if necessary. Member States must play their part in the implementation of this declaration. Great efforts on theseand above factor  can brighten the hopes for peace and democracy in Africa.

*Yeheys Nardos Hawaz ,PhD candidate at Jilin University School of International and public Affairs (SIPA)

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Hydro-projects in Africa: Interview with Vladislav Vasilyev



As widely known, Russia plans to hold the second Russia-Africa summit in 2022, as a further step to make inroads into Africa – that comprises a diverse collection of countries, each with its own set of development setbacks and challenges. The political culture and investment climate are, in fact, diverse but are also important forces in determining the levels of the economy.

As it aims at raising its economic profile, Russia is strongly encouraging Russian business leaders to prioritize sustainable development-oriented projects as a practical step towards raising the living standard of millions of impoverished population in Africa.

For instance, JSC Institute Hydroproject promises to transfer its experience in advanced and innovative technologies, and efficient use of water resources, especially ways of managing and ensuring reliable hydro-energy supply. JSC Institute Hydroproject can further help in the accelerated social and economic development in Africa. 

In this interview, Vladislav Vasilyev, Head of International Projects Department at JSC Institute Hydroproject, discusses his company’s efforts directed at establishing hydro-projects in Africa, further touched on the state support for Russian business in Africa. Here are the interview excerpts:

– How important is African market for your company, JSC Institute JSC Institute Hydroproject?

JSC Institute Hydroproject has vast working experience in African countries wherein we have done designs of HPPs in Algeria, Angola, Ethiopia, Guinea, San Tome and Principe, Tunisia, Morocco, Ethiopia. We would like to separately emphasize about the masterpiece high class engineering of the Aswan dam on the Nile river in Egypt. JSC Institute Hydroproject management has deep knowledge of the African market.

– What are your expectations from African governments, industrialists and agribusiness directors in cooperating on products and services of your company?

African countries are among the fastest growing in the world. About one and half billion people live there, and that constitute approximately 20% of the world’s population. At the same time, there is a big demand in infrastructure development. Even the United Nations, forming the “Sustainable Development Goals” emphasizes the high development needs of the African region.

The African market is a big challenge in all areas of water use, from land reclamation to large and complex knowledge-intensive industries, not to mention the usual but much-needed electricity generation. In this regard, we see many opportunities for cooperation with governments, industrialists and in the huge agroindustry.

– Do you envisage any key problems and impediments to developing business, especially in the sphere of agriculture in African countries?

Difficulties and obstacles are possible – this is life. However, we can look at things differently, and see the obstacles as opportunities and incentives. For example, the lack of land reclamation networks makes it possible to build and develop a water delivery system that can become a link to strengthen the local neighboring countries and peoples.

The construction of a hydroelectric power station requires a channel with a large water pressure, which means the presence of a water basin, a reservoir. This will not only provide the local region with electricity, but also provide water. Here are a number of issues that are being resolved with the participation of the design and survey and research school of such a company as JSC Institute Hydroproject.

– How competitive do you see African market for Russian companies, generally, and for your company, specifically? From the previous experience, what challenges Russian companies and investors face in Africa?

There are several challenges, which are still in place for Russian engineering companies on African market. Russia is still not a member country of African Development Bank. AfDB announces many tenders, which are closed to companies from non-member countries. Still it is only a few African countries, who signed an agreement on the avoidance of double taxation with Russia.

– Business needs vital information, knowledge about the investment climate and so forth. Do you think there has been an information vacuum or gap between the two countries?

In my opinion we can talk about the rapprochement of the positions of Africa and Russia, the formation of new and strengthening of long-standing ties. This is explicitly noted, for instance, by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and Head of the National Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Uganda, Olive Kigongo.

Joshua Setipa, Managing Director of the United Nations Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries, says of the importance of high-tech companies: “It is important for us to continuously develop our partner network and establish cooperation with organizations that can help and support less developed countries with their technological and innovative potential. I am sure that working in Russia and, in particular, at the events of the Roscongress Foundation will help us to use the country’s opportunities for the benefit of others.” He said so at the recent Russia-Africa summit in Sochi.

– In your opinion, does the forthcoming second Russia-Africa summit planned for 2022 hold an opportunity for raising the level of investment and business engagement with Africa?

Russia-Africa summit is unique platform that is expected to bring together corporate business directors and potential investors from both regions – Russia and Africa. We can simply agree that investments are always possible, and Russia is highly interested in them. This is also a state and business interest. Such people and companies are also among our partners. 

According to the achievements of recent years – this is not only the First Joint Russia-Africa Summit, but also during many previous bilateral forums, it is important to say that cooperation in the business sphere is just gaining momentum.

Now there is a lot of work to be done, including a well-structured and well-coordinated policy for Russian business, restructuring foreign policy and supporting economic circles – with African politicians, business people and residents of African countries. It is necessary to cooperate between scientific, technical, humanitarian, information, and digital platforms, and ultimately to develop common approaches for the implementation of our upcoming joint projects.

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Nigeria- Ghana Trade War: Where to from here



Several months after a series of bilateral talks between the Nigerian government and authorities in Ghana aimed toward addressing the nearly a decade-long controversy that led to the closure of Nigerian traders’ shops in Ghana, the problems have not been resolved. Hundreds of shops belonging to Nigerian traders are still under lock and key; while most of the owners are stranded. A number of them said they beg to feed, as many of them remain reluctant to return to Nigeria despite a window created by the Nigerian government to facilitate their safe return.

What has happened so far?

President Muhammadu Buhari stunned Nigeria’s neighbors when he unexpectedly closed the country’s land borders to goods trade, saying the time had come to crush contraband trade. The land borders with neighboring Benin, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger were closed to goods in August 2019, with partial openings and closings for people prompted by the coronavirus pandemic throughout 2020.

The center of the lingering controversy was a $1 million levy imposed on Nigerian traders and other foreign investors to pay Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) before the shops would be opened. The conditions set by the Ghanaian authorities had triggered a debate in Nigeria and within the African sub-region, which many considered as a breach of ECOWAS’ trade protocols.

However, on 19 June 2020, armed men entered the compound of the Nigeria High Commission in Ghana, and destroyed buildings under construction. Nigeria’s foreign minister Geoffrey Onyeama described the vandalism as “outrageous and criminal” and urged the Ghanaian authorities to make sure that they protect Nigerian diplomatic buildings. Nigerian residents in Ghana held a demonstration calling for Nigerian government to take action. Although a piece posted on the Nigerian High Commission website in Ghana places responsibility on a businessperson who had previously claimed he owned the land where the building was being built, Nigerians living in Ghana still took to the streets to protest for their protection. The Ghanaian foreign ministry also promised that security had been “beefed up”.

Flashback on bilateral talks

The Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, had last year summoned Ghana’s Chargé d’Affaires to Nigeria, Ms. Iva Denoo, with whom he discussed the closure of the Nigerian-owned shops in Accra with a view to addressing the problem. Onyeama described the action taken by the Ghanaian authorities as politically motivated. However, his Ghanaian counterpart, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, countered his allegation, insisting that the crackdown was on illegal foreign retail businesses in Ghana.

Botchwey, described in a tweet by Onyeama, tagging Ghana’s policy on retail business as a politically motivated move as ‘most unfortunate. She said the Ghanaian government did not target any particular nationality in the exercise. “Countries sometimes take tough decisions in order to enforce their laws, just as Nigeria took a decision to shut its borders to stop smuggling, despite its impact on ECOWAS member countries,” she had said.

Is Ghana innocent?

While it’s easier to quickly point a finger at Nigeria as the aggressor, given it’s the bigger country who opted to shut its borders, therefore creating a ripple effect in the smaller economies, Ghana also has laws that clash with ECOWAS protocol, which ensures the free movement of the community’s citizens, as well as free and fair trade. The 2013 Ghana Investment Promotion Centre Act (GIPC) is one such Act. It prioritizes the interests of Ghanaian traders and business owners by designating certain only its citizens, whereby foreigners wanting to set up shop in Ghana must have a minimum equity capital of $10,000, run enterprises. That alone limits the number of foreigners – particularly from the poorer surrounding West African countries – who can successfully work in Ghana.

Where to from here

While tariffs can result in individual ‘winners’, a full trade war, protectionism, and a reversal of decades of globalization would damage economies across the board, hitting emerging markets particularly hard. COVID-19 has arguably pushed many countries towards concentrating on themselves, as many economies have been negatively affected in an exceedingly shocking manner. Although few expect to see the kinds of tensions witnessed in the 1980s when Nigeria expelled two million undocumented West African migrants, half of whom were from Ghana.

Key takeaways

  • Nigeria border closure weakened trade across West Africa
  • A full trade war and globalization reversal will benefit nobody
  • Nigerian traders have suffered the most; Ghanaians also faces pain
  • Traders have seen big losses.
  • Demolition of Nigerian High Commission building in Accra.

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H.E. President John Mahama Appointed As AU High Representative for Somalia



The Chairperson of the Commission, H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat, has announced the appointment of H.E John Dramani Mahama, former President of the Republic of Ghana, as his High Representative to Somalia.

As the High Representative for Somalia’s political track, President Mahama will work with the Somali stakeholders, to reach a mutually acceptable compromise towards an all-encompassing resolution for the holding of Somali elections in the shortest possible time.

In fulfilling his mandate, the High Representative will be supported by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), to ensure that the mediation efforts and the peace support operation work together seamlessly.

The Chairperson of the Commission calls on the Somali stakeholders to negotiate in good faith, and to put the interests of Somalia and the well-being of the Somali people above all else in the search for an inclusive settlement to the electoral crisis.

This should usher in a democratically elected government with the legitimacy and mandate to resolve the remaining outstanding political and constitutional issues that are posing a threat to the stability of the country and the region as a whole.

The Chairperson of the Commission also encourages all the Somali stakeholders and the international community to extend every support to the High Representative, who will arrive the country in the coming days.

Ambassador Abukar Arman, a former Somalia special envoy to the United States and a foreign policy analyst says there have previously been interventions from neighbors have not brought Somalia the promised peace.

It is clear that no Somali can pursue a political career in his own country without first getting Ethiopia’s blessings. Already, Ethiopia has installed a number of its staunch cohorts in the current government and (along with Kenya) has been handpicking virtually all of the new regional governors, mayors and so forth.

In October 2010, the African Union appointed Jerry John Rawlings as the AU High Representative for Somalia to “mobilize the continent and the rest of the international community to fully assume its responsibilities and contribute more actively to the quest for peace, security and reconciliation in Somalia.”

That however, Ambassador Arman says the former Ghana president and AU Special Representative for Somalia is now assuming his new post with significant diplomatic capital, mainly resulting from the credible work of his fellow countryman, former president, and Special Envoy to Somalia, Jerry John Rawlings.

“On the other hand, he would be carrying the hefty political burden that comes with the so-called African Solutions for African Problems and its cash-gulping record. The concept is taken hostage by African sloganeers and foreign elements eager to advance zero-sum interests,” he wrote me in an emailed message.

Make no mistake, Somalia is held in a nasty headlock by a neighbourhood tag-team unmistakably motivated by zero-sum objective. It is their so-called African solution (not so much of the extremist group al-Shabaab) that is setting the Horn on fire.

According to AFP news report, Mogadishu had been on edge since February, when President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed’s term ended before elections were held, and protesters took to the streets against his rule. But a resolution in April to extend his mandate by two years split the country’s fragile security forces along all-important clan lines.

Soldiers loyal to influential opposition leaders began pouring into the capital. The fighting drove tens of thousands of civilians from their homes and divided the city, with government forces losing some key neighborhoods to opposition units.

Under pressure to ease the tension, Mohamed abandoned his mandate extension and instructed his prime minister to arrange fresh elections and bring together rivals for talks. Indirect elections were supposed to have been held by February under a deal reached between the government and Somalia’s five regional states the previous September.

But that agreement collapsed as the president and the leaders of two states, Puntland and Jubaland, squabbled over the terms. Months of UN-backed talks failed to broker consensus between the feuding sides.

In early May, Mohamed re-launched talks with his opponents over the holding of fresh elections, and agreed to return to the terms of the September accord.

Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble has invited the regional leaders to a round of negotiations on May 20 in the hope of resolving the protracted feud and charting a path to a vote. In the meanwhile, the international community has threatened sanctions if elections are not held soon.

Somalia remains the epicenter of global geopolitical and geo-economic competition. Some of the major ones are in a cut-throat competition that further complicates the Somalia conundrum. With its longest coastline, bordering Ethiopia to the west, Kenya to the southwest and the Gulf of Eden, Somalia has attracted many foreign countries to the region in East Africa.

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