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Push to silence the guns of Africa as number of conflicts take heavy toll

At an African Leadership Forum meeting in Dar es Salaam hosted by former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa, former president Thabo Mbeki and former Somalian president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud were joined by about 30 civil society activists to discuss how to overcome obstacles to achieving peace in Africa.
It was noted that Africa is in urgent need of “silencing the guns”, as six major conflicts continue to rage in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Mali, Darfur and Somalia. In the Great Lakes region, 11-million people have been displaced, while more than 3-million people have died in the two-decade Congolese conflict.
The African Standby Force, promised since 2010, remains a pipe dream as actors such as the US and France establish a meddling military presence from the Sahel to Somalia.
Africa’s potential Gullivers – Nigeria, SA, Algeria, Ethiopia and the DRC – continue to suffer from internal security and governance issues that prevent them from playing a hegemonic role in their subregions. The forum discussed the weaknesses of Africa’s security architecture.An effective division of labour should be established between the AU and subregional bodies such as the Southern African Development Community and the Economic Community of West African States. The 15-member AU Peace and Security Council also lacks the capacity to implement its own decisions, having often to rely on the UN and other external actors.
The EU and other external donors fund more than 90% of the AU’s security work, a dangerous dependence that results in self-interested interventions that do not always reflect the continent’s priorities. International resources are lacking for critical post-conflict peace-building tasks such as strengthening state institutions, security sector reform and disarmament and demobilisation tasks. The forum focused on two conflict cases: Somalia and the DRC. Somalia’s three-decade conflict has been somewhat ameliorated by the presence of a 21 000-strong AU peacekeeping force, which has allowed for the establishment of a weak and fractious government in Mogadishu. Persistent deadly attacks by the terrorist group alShabaab on civilians and peacekeepers have rendered parts of the country ungovernable and have broken the vital link between state and society. A divisive clan-based system has polarised and militarised politics. The country, however, has an innovative telecommunications system and Somalis remain dynamic and entrepreneurial, possessing one of the world’s best remittance systems for transferring funds from the large Somali diaspora.
Similar to Somalia, armed groups have proliferated in the DRC, from 20 groups in 2004 to 150 now. Many are linked to or originated from regional states such as Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi and these “negative forces” are involved in gross human rights abuses and illicit economic activities across the country. SA’s energetic peacemaking role in the country was acknowledged, while the UN’s peacekeeping role – particularly that of Pakistan, India and Bangladesh – was described as representing “pure business”, deployed to make money from peacekeeping reimbursements rather than primarily to save lives and stabilise the country.
The issue of the constantly delayed elections and President Joseph Kabila’s continued stay in office 17 months beyond his constitutional term while cracking down harshly on opposition protests was at the centre of discussions.
A presidential amnesty for corruption and gross human rights abuses may have to be part of the inducements to facilitate Kabila’s exit from power in December. Questions were raised whether costly elections would be a panacea for the DRC’s problems and whether the money could not be better spent on development.
The forum concluded with the question of how to forge a renewed sense of pan-Africanism among leaders. As the continent continues its perennial quest for Pax Africana, the guns have still not been silenced across Africa.
Adebajo is director of the University of Johannesburg’s Institute for Pan-African Thought and Conversation...

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