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)

Chen Xi, PhD
Chen Xi, PhD
Lecturer in the School of International and Public Affairs of Jilin University


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