“Silencing the Guns in Africa” Open Debate
Tomorrow (27 February) the Security Council will hold a high-level open debate on how the AU and UN can cooperate to end conflict in Africa under the agenda item “Cooperation between the UN and regional and sub-regional organizations: Silencing the Guns in Africa”. The meeting will be chaired by Simeon Oyono Esono Angue, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Equatorial Guinea. UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohamed, AU High Representative for Silencing the Guns in Africa Ramtane Lamamra, and the founder and Executive Director of African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) Vasu Gounden are expected to brief. The Council is expected to adopt a resolution during the meeting. It appears that the penholder, Equatorial Guinea, is seeking broad co-sponsorship for the resolution from the wider UN membership.
Equatorial Guinea circulated a concept note in preparation for the meeting. The note summarises steps taken in Africa to make progress in ending conflict on the continent since May 2013, when the AU Heads of State and Government adopted the programme for “Silencing the Guns by 2020” as part of the Solemn Declaration marking the AU’s 50th anniversary. In this regard, the AU adopted the AU Master Roadmap of Practical Steps to Silence the Guns by 2020 in January 2017. In July 2018, the UN Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council held their 12th annual informal meeting and discussed how reinforced cooperation could assist in ending conflict.
Tomorrow’s open debate is a follow-up to those efforts and an Arria-formula meeting on this issue in October 2018 that was co-chaired by Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, South Africa and the AU. During that meeting, the Permanent Observer of the AU, Fatima Kyari Mohammed, shared the challenges she believed laid ahead: coordination and harmonisation of various policies of the AU; systematic involvement of all relevant local, national, regional, and international stakeholders; addressing root causes; and mobilisation of the necessary funds. At the meeting, Council members supported the opportunity for greater cooperation and coordination between the AU and UN. Some also stressed the need for sustainable and predictable financing for AU operations.
Equatorial Guinea raises several questions in the concept note that can also serve as a springboard for the discussion. Among others, these include:
- What are the main threats to peace and security in Africa and how can gains made in recent years be preserved?
- how can the AU and its regional mechanisms further strengthen their tools to prevent, manage, and resolve conflicts?
- What can the UN Security Council do concretely to support the AU’s efforts to implement its Master Roadmap on silencing the guns?
Other possible topics that members may raise include the need for inclusive conflict prevention efforts, especially the inclusion of women; the need to increase efforts to fight trafficking of small arms and light weapons; and how the mismanagement and exploitation of natural resources can lead to and sustain conflict.
The idea for an outcome on this issue goes back several months. During the Arria-formula meeting in October 2018, Côte d’Ivoire signaled its intention to pursue a resolution on this topic, and this idea was supported by Kuwait and incoming member Germany in their statements at that meeting.
In taking up the “silencing the guns” initiative as a key event of its presidency, Equatorial Guinea indicated that it would pursue a resolution, thus taking up the idea that had been proposed in October 2018. It has spearheaded the negotiations, which have been quite extensive, with several rounds among members.
Divergent views were manifested during the negotiations on issues such as how to address arms control instruments and regimes, the illegal exploitation of natural resources, and the role of the Secretary-General in supporting the “silencing the guns in Africa” initiative. All of these matters are mentioned in the final text in some form. Among other things, the draft in blue underlines the need for effective implementation of relevant arms control and disarmament instruments and regimes, encourages AU member states to strengthen the regulation of natural resource management, and references the use of the Secretary-General’s good offices, when appropriate, in the context of integrating AU-UN efforts towards preventive diplomacy.
It seems that at least one member suggested edits that reiterated the primacy of national governments and authorities in determining priorities and policies. It appears that this was incorporated into the final version.
While expressing concerns with the challenging security environment in Africa (including threats caused by terrorism, maritime piracy, transnational organised crime, and tensions between farmers and pastoralists, among others), the text acknowledges that creating an Africa without conflict is essentially a responsibility of the AU, its member states and their people and institutions. It welcomes the AU’s determination to end conflict on the continent and to create conditions to help promote growth and development. The draft further takes note of several efforts by the AU to counter transnational terrorism, and, with sub-regional organisations, to conduct peace support operations.
There is also language in the draft resolution recognising the adverse effects of climate change and ecological changes on the stability of AU member states, and emphasising the need for risk assessment and management strategies by governments and the UN in relation to such issues. This is similar to climate-security language that has been incorporated over the past two years in several Council outcomes on country- and sub-regional agenda items related to Africa.
While an early version of the text indicated that the Council would remain “actively seized” of this matter, it seems that one member opposed this language. Nonetheless, there is text in the resolution promoting ongoing engagement by the Council on “silencing the guns in Africa.” The final draft calls on the Secretary-General, in consultation with the AU Commission Chairperson, to provide updates “when appropriate” on the status of implementation and support for this initiative, including in his report on “Strengthening the partnership between the United Nations and the African Union on Issues of Peace and Security in Africa”.