March 2023 Monthly Forecast


Silencing the Guns in Africa

Expected Council Action

In March, the Council is expected to hold an open debate on peace and security in Africa to discuss the nexus between the AU initiative “Silencing the Guns in Africa” and development. Briefings may be provided by Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed; Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security of the AU Commission Bankole Adeoye; and a civil society representative.

Background and Recent Developments

The AU heads of state and government adopted the programme for “silencing the guns by 2020” as part of the May 2013 Solemn Declaration marking the 50th anniversary of the AU and its predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity. According to the declaration, AU states expressed their “determination to achieve the goal of a conflict-free Africa, to make peace a reality for all our people and to rid the continent of wars, civil conflicts, human rights violations, humanitarian disasters and violent conflicts, and to prevent genocide”. The declaration continued, “We pledge not to bequeath the burden of conflicts to the next generation of Africans and undertake to end all wars in Africa by 2020.” To address implementation, the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) adopted an AU Master Roadmap of Practical Steps to Silence the Guns during a November 2016 retreat in Lusaka, Zambia.

As this aspirational deadline for eradicating conflict in Africa approached, the AU Assembly held an extraordinary session on “Silencing the Guns” on 6 December 2020. At the session, the Assembly extended the implementation of the AU Master Roadmap for a period of ten years from 2021 to 2030, with periodic reviews every two years. The AU Assembly further extended until 2030 the annual September commemoration and conduct of Africa Amnesty Month for the surrender and collection of illicit arms and light weapons. The amnesty month has been in place since 2017 to encourage civilians voluntarily to surrender illicit weapons in their possession on condition of anonymity and immunity from prosecution.

The AU Assembly’s decision to extend the “Silencing the Guns” programme until 2030 included requesting the Chairperson of the AU Commission to create an institutional mechanism to coordinate the effective planning, monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of the roadmap. The Monitoring and Evaluation Mechanism for the AU Master Roadmap of Practical Steps for Silencing the Guns in Africa by 2030 was adopted in Nairobi in May 2021. The AU Assembly endorsed this mechanism in February 2022, urging member states and the regional economic communities and regional mechanisms (RECs/RMs), as well as all other relevant key stakeholders to effectively use the monitoring and evaluation mechanism as a guiding tool for monitoring the implementation of the master roadmap and reporting on progress.

More recently, on 21 January, AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat announced the appointment of Mohamed Ibn Chambas as the AU High Representative for Silencing the Guns. Chambas succeeds Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra, who last served in this position.

The UN Security Council held a high-level open debate on “Silencing the Guns” on 27 February 2019, organised by Equatorial Guinea during its Council presidency. At that meeting, the Security Council adopted resolution 2457, which welcomed the AU’s “determination to rid Africa of conflicts and create conditions favourable for the growth, development and integration of the continent as encapsulated in its goal of Silencing the Guns in Africa by the Year 2020 and its Master Roadmap”. The resolution expressed the Council’s “readiness to support the implementation of the African Union Master Roadmap of Practical Steps to Silence the Guns in Africa by year 2020”.

Among other things, the resolution underlined the need for effective implementation of relevant arms control and disarmament instruments and regimes, encouraged AU member states to strengthen the regulation of natural resource management, and referenced the use of the Secretary-General’s good offices, when appropriate, in the context of integrating AU-UN efforts towards preventive diplomacy. (For more, see our What’s in Blue story of 26 February 2019.) Council members have also discussed the “Silencing the Guns” programme during its annual consultations with the AU PSC, and they held an Arria-formula meeting on the initiative in October 2018.

Key Issues and Options

A key issue for the upcoming briefing is the nexus between “Silencing the Guns” in Africa and development. “Silencing the Guns” is one of the flagship projects under the AU’s Agenda 2063, which have been identified as key to accelerating Africa’s economic growth and development. (Agenda 2063 is the AU master plan for achieving inclusive and sustainable socioeconomic development over a 50-year period.) The Master Roadmap of Practical Steps to Silence the Guns recognises, among other things, economic, social and governance challenges and sets out steps to address these, such as by creating a conducive environment and incentives for investment and reducing vulnerabilities to livelihoods from climate change.

Despite the “Silencing the Guns” initiative since 2013, an important issue is the continent’s arguably worsening security trends. This includes the spread of terrorism and violent extremism, resource-linked and inter-communal conflict, a resurgence of unconstitutional changes of government, and intra-state conflicts such as in Cameroon, Ethiopia, and South Sudan.

Council members could consider discussing elements from the “Silencing the Guns” initiative, such as conflict prevention, and explore how the Council could further help support the initiative through a resolution or other outcome. A Council product could also welcome the AU’s decision to extend the initiative until 2030.

Council Dynamics

Council members are supportive of the “Silencing the Guns” initiative. However, it covers a broad spectrum of issues for ending conflict, from addressing socioeconomic and governance challenges to increasing resources for the AU’s preventive diplomacy and AU peace operations. Differences therefore arise among Council members on some of these issues, including members’ differing positions on sanctions. While the master roadmap sets out actions such as imposing arms embargoes on parties engaged in conflict and in the distribution of small arms and light weapons, the Council’s three African members (currently Gabon, Ghana, and Mozambique) have championed AU PSC calls since 2022 to end existing Security Council arms embargoes in conflict situations such as the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan. The US and European members, for example, do not agree with these calls. The use of UN assessed contributions to provide more predictable funding for AU-led peace enforcement or counter-terrorism operations also remains a controversial issue among Council members.

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Security Council Resolution
27 February 2019S/RES/2457 This was a resolution adopted during a meeting on “Cooperation between the UN and regional and subregional organizations in maintaining international peace and security”.
Security Council Meeting Record
27 February 2019S/PV.8473 This was a high-level open debate on “Silencing the guns in Africa”.