General News

Security Council: Silencing the guns in Africa

Note: Full coverage of today’s meeting of the Security Council will be available after its conclusion.

Action on Draft Resolution

By a unanimous vote, the Security Council adopted resolution 2457 (2019).


ROSEMARY DICARLO, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, said the “Silencing the Guns” initiative to promote the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts in Africa is critical not only for what it aims to do, but also for what it says about the importance of African leadership and partnership with the global community.  Emphasizing the wide-ranging cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union, she pointed out that the two organizations share a common mission — to prevent conflict.  That partnership is bearing fruit in different African countries, including the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Somalia, Madagascar and Mali, she said, adding that the United Nations has also stepped up its support for efforts to combat terrorism and counter violent extremism in Africa.

Calling also for greater efforts to increase women’s participation in political processes, she also stressed the need for strong institutions and resilient societies as the key to silencing the guns.  Although great strides have been made towards deepening democracy in Africa, many governance challenges remain, she cautioned, citing the marginalization of certain groups, the prevalence of “winner-takes-all” approaches, corruption and mismanagement of natural resources.  In that regard, she pointed to the Organization’s work with the African Union and the relevant regional economic communities to address the root causes of armed conflict, including providing support for democratic consolidation, upholding human rights, ending marginalization and promoting inclusive socioeconomic development in accordance with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union’s Agenda 2063.

Quoting a recent statement by the Secretary-General, she said “a wind of hope is blowing in Africa”, with political progress accompanied by increased entrepreneurship and access to education as well as declining child mortality.  Launched a year ago, the African Continental Free Trade Area and other initiatives demonstrate that Africans, in partnership with the global community, are leading the way to sustainable peace and prosperity.  African countries, the African Union and the continent’s private sector and civil society have a central role to play in silencing the guns, but it is vital that the international community lend its support to help them achieve that objective, she emphasized, adding that today’s debate should galvanize support for that effort.

RAMTANE LAMAMRA, High Representative of the African Union for “Silencing the Guns in Africa by 2020”, said that since its adoption, the bloc’s flagship project to establish a conflict-free region and make peace a reality for all its peoples has not remained a mere slogan.  It is being pursued as a top priority towards the realization of “the Africa We Want”, known as Agenda 2063, he said, explaining that the region’s leaders have pledged to end all wars on the continent by 2020.  The African Union Assembly adopted the Master Roadmap for Silencing the Guns in January 2017, he recalled, noting that notable progress has been made in preventing, managing and resolving conflicts.  He cited the recently concluded peace agreements in South Sudan and the Central African Republic, the successful democratic elections held in Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the historic positive developments in the Horn of Africa.

The African Union continues to strengthen its architectures on peace and security as well as on governance, he continued.  Recalling that the bloc’s strategic partnership with the United Nations was bolstered by the signing of a joint framework in April 2017, he noted, however, that major challenges remain with the approach of the December 2020 deadline for ending wars.  Several African countries remain trapped in a vicious cycle of violent conflict and its deadly consequences arising from transnational crime, terrorism and the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, he pointed out.  Poor governance and leadership remain a major source of instability, allowing space for corruption and related illegal activities, including illicit exploitation of natural resources.  There is urgent need to build a robust culture of conflict prevention as well as a culture of peace and tolerance, he emphasized.

He went on to note that his office recently launched a media campaign reaching out to Africans on the continent, especially the young, but also to the African diaspora.  “We remain convinced that peace cannot be achieved without development, and vice-versa, and that both peace and development cannot thrive without human rights and good governance,” he emphasized.  Equally important is the need for the Security Council to respond positively to the African Union’s long-standing and legitimate calls for the funding of African peace support operations through United Nations assessed contributions.  He said that his role is geared towards coordinating the various stakeholders and galvanizing the support necessary for deploying the relevant conflict-resolution interventions.  An action plan for supporting the Silencing the Guns initiative is being developed to deliver concrete results, he said.  Recalling that Nelson Mandala once said “it always seems impossible until it’s done”, he declared:  “Let’s do it together.”

VASU GOUNDEN, founder and Executive Director, African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD), said he has 27 years of experience in helping to resolve conflicts in Africa, including under apartheid in South Africa.  “Attempting to resolve a conflict after actually having been in one gives one the added advantage of empathy born out of experience,” he said, emphasizing the value of the empathy factor in numerous interventions.  Many seemingly intractable conflicts in Africa over the last two decades were resolved through negotiations, including those in South Africa, Angola, Mozambique, Sudan/South Sudan, Madagascar, Liberia, Sierra Leone and recently Ethiopia/Eritrea and the Central African Republic, he noted.  ACCORD has trained more than 20,000 people in Africa and many now occupy high office as presidents, ministers, senior Government officials, military generals and civil society leaders, he said, adding that the Centre is ranked as one of the best in the world and the top think tank in Africa.

However, with new conflicts emerging and some old ones persisting, the question is whether the guns will be silenced by 2020, he said, adding:  “The answer is a resounding ‘no’.”  Emphasizing the importance of debating the modalities for silencing the guns, he described Silencing the Guns as merely a mitigation tool that will be meaningless in the absence of good governance and urgent transformation of the structural drivers of conflict.  “Many parts of Africa are reaching a dangerous tipping point and we are currently in a race against time,” he warned, explaining that transformation to deal with root causes and deep structural challenges will take between 20 to 40 years to address.  He went on to stress that robust mitigation, including silencing the guns, must be an immediate priority so as to arrest violence and conflict while allowing socioeconomic transformation to take place.

He went on to warn: “Anything short of that will result in the gradual collapse of law and order and a deterioration into civil war that will push Africa’s transformation even further back.”  Pointing out that the vast majority of countries on the continent have not dealt with poverty, unemployment and inequality, he said most of them remain largely subsistence agricultural economies, making little to no progress towards an industrial or services economy.  This is occurring amid urbanization that offers no prospect of proper housing, health care, education, sanitation or water, he noted.  “Introduce guns into this equation and you light the proverbial ‘time bomb’ waiting to explode,” he cautioned, explaining that this is why 2020 is the deadline for silencing the guns.

Five years ago, ACCORD’s prognosis was that the theatre of conflict will shift to urban areas over the next two decades, he recalled.  However, it is already a reality today, he said, stressing:  “I am not being dramatic, alarmist or pessimistic.”  He explained that he came to alert the Council that a time bomb is already lit “because you sit in this highest decision-making body charged with maintaining my security and that of my children and the millions more around the world”.  The Council must do more beyond passing a resolution, he insisted, saying Member States must stem the flow of illicit weapons, almost all of which are not produced in Africa. They must also provide more resources for preventing conflict and building peace.  They must help to make African industries productive.  “Unless you take these actions collectively […] you would not have silenced the guns,” he said.  “You would only have silenced your powerful voices.”


SIMEÓN OYONO ESONO ANGÜE, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Equatorial Guinea, Council President for February, spoke in his national capacity, saying that whereas small arms and light weapons represent a great danger requiring urgent anti-trafficking action, Agenda 2063 is part of the solution, being in line with the 2030 Agenda and the Silencing the Guns initiative.  African countries have a collective responsibility to prioritize the goals set out in these action plans with a view to ensuring the inclusive promotion of equality while preventing violence, he emphasized.  Addressing the root causes of conflict is equally critical for strengthening efforts to accelerate development and reduce poverty, thereby eliminating the breeding ground for violent extremism by first tackling national, ethnic, religious and social tensions.  Calling for the consolidation of international efforts to that end, he said they must create an environment that fosters growth, peace and good governance.  Meanwhile, United Nations peacekeeping operations must be boosted, he said, stressing that stable financing is crucial.  He went on to call upon the Council to unite around resolutions that help to build the Africa of tomorrow, free of guns in a climate of peace and security.  The tools already exist, but further work is required to make the African peace and security architecture fully operational, he said.  Citing achievements from the Horn of Africa to Madagascar, he said the historic resolution just adopted demonstrates that peace and stability in Africa means peace and stability in the entire world.

WALTER J. LINDNER, State Secretary of the Federal Foreign Office of Germany said that his country has made the fight against the proliferation of weapons and ammunition a priority of its tenure on the Council, and also supports strengthening the protection of human rights.  Peacekeeping operations have a special responsibility to protect the most vulnerable, he said, noting that adequate human rights components play a crucial role in preventing grave violations against children in armed conflict.  Germany is a long-standing partner for Africa in development cooperation and has launched such initiatives as the Group of 20 Compact with Africa, to spur economic activities with and in the continent, he said.

JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic) cited the illicit flow of small arms and light weapons as the common feature of every conflict.  Encouraging African States to ensure compliance with legal domestic and international commitments, including honouring arms embargoes, he underlined the importance of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects.  Security sector reform and other targeted projects should aim to prevent the use of weapons by civilians, he emphasized.  Despite advances in gender equity, greater efforts must be made to guarantee the inclusion of women in security-related processes.  Multilateral investment and cooperation in African States could foster much desired social and economic development, he said, adding that women and young people must be included in peace processes.  More action is needed to address pressing climate change impacts that affect stability.  Meanwhile, Governments and armed groups must renew their commitments to adopt measures for the effective implementation of peace agreements, he stressed.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said positive developments should not mask the fact that conflict persists in Africa.  Prevention efforts must be boosted with sustainable funding for peace operations, although peace missions and military responses to crises are only part of the solution.  Emphasizing the need for a broader approach, based on a strong partnership among the United Nations, the African Union and subregional African entities.  He went on to underline the importance of including women in political as well as conflict-prevention and conflict-resolution processes to foster sustainable peace.  More broadly, efforts by the African Union and Member States to address the root causes of conflict, including the Silencing the Guns initiative, are of key importance for long-term crisis prevention and to avoid a repetitive cycle of conflict, he said, underlining that an urgent area of focus must be the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, which continues to feed conflicts, organized crime and terrorism.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said it would be right for the Council to focus today on the efforts that Africans are making to deal with their continent’s peace and security challenges, as well as the ways in which the international community can support them.  Despite sizeable progress in resolving crises in South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Horn of Africa, in addition to the holding of peaceful elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria, other situations remain difficult, such as the Lake Chad Basin.  Calling attention to foreign combatants returning from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, he called for consolidated efforts to stem the growing threat of terrorism in Africa, underlining, however, that international assistance must be undertaken in strict compliance with the United Nations Charter, and in observance of the principle of non-interference in the affairs of sovereign States.  The Russian Federation’s assistance to Africa is always provided with the consent of the recipient countries, he stressed, urging the Council to pay close attention to initiatives aimed at ensuring adequate funding for African Union peace operations.

JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) said there is no doubt that much work remains to realize the goal of a conflict-free Africa.  It is of utmost importance to strengthen African confidence-building measures as well as its early-warning, conflict-prevention and mediation capacities, including the Panel of the Wise.  Enhanced cooperation between the African Union and the United Nations remains crucial, she added.  Conflicts in Africa are complex, as are their root causes, given the social, political and economic inequality still existing there, she said, also emphasizing the importance of good governance and functioning State institutions.

KACOU HOUADJA LÉON ADOM (Côte d’Ivoire), citing the changing nature of conflict in Africa and the proliferation of arms trafficking, called for coordinated strategies and the pooling of resources to reverse the trend, while emphasizing that silencing the guns is primarily the responsibility of Member States, acting in accordance with the United Nations Charter.  He highlighted his own country’s efforts in combating the proliferation of and illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons.  They include the creation of a dedicated authority to deal with the disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and rehabilitation of former combatants.  He went on to emphasize the need for strong financial commitments, the role of regional economic communities, and the value of strengthening national capacities and exchanging best practices.  Any commitment to silence the guns in Africa must take poverty and unemployment into account as well as the need to give young people alternatives to a life of crime, he stressed.

Name to come (Indonesia) underlined the interlinked nature of peace and development, spotlighting the need to combat illicit flows of arms and ammunition while enhancing national law enforcement and judicial capacity.  Meanwhile, he called for improving national capacity to safeguard national weapons stockpiles and strengthening regional cooperation on such issues.  He also underscored the importance of fighting terrorism and organized crime, warning that they are increasingly interlinked and sophisticated, and have become major threats in Africa.  Calling for efforts to eliminate illegal activities that contribute to the funding of terrorist organizations, he also emphasized the importance of addressing the root causes and drivers of conflict, including poverty, economic gaps and social inequality.

JONATHAN R. COHEN (United States) said the goal of a conflict-free Africa is ambitious and worthy, but it will not be easy.  Describing the factors contributing to conflict as complex, he cited, among other things, poor governance, mismanagement of natural resources and the trafficking, circulation and use of small arms and light weapons.  Emphasizing the need to strengthen mechanisms that anticipate the outbreak of conflict, he described his country’s bilateral efforts, such as helping Kenya strengthen its weapons stockpiles in light of attacks by Al-Shabaab.  Whereas the United States supports many of the objectives of Agenda 2063, it is concerned about language in that document calling for reduced imports of food into Africa, he said, adding that his country’s Government hopes to take that issue up with the African Union.  Describing today’s resolution as “a good example of partnership”, he said Governments in Africa should be expected to hold each other accountable, particularly in the area of human rights.  Turning to several country-specific situations, he said the Government of Zimbabwe must hold rights-violating members of the security forces accountable; the Government as well as protesters in north-west and south-west Cameroon must immediately begin reconciliation efforts; and the Government of Sudan must address the concerns of protesters.

JERRY MATJILA (South Africa) highlighted the importance of the Peace Fund in enhancing self-reliance and ownership in addressing Africa’s peace, security and developmental challenges.  He said the Fund is structured around three thematic windows that it will venture to cover: mediation and preventative diplomacy; institutional capacity; and peace support operations.  Noting that 50 African Union member States have made contributions amounting to $89 million to the Fund since 2017, he said that they did so on the basis of the existing scale of assessment.  He went on to state that the African peace and security architecture should be the central framework within which United Nations Chapter VIII engagement with the African Union should take place.

STEPHEN HICKEY (United Kingdom) said it is vital to translate the noble goal of silencing the guns in Africa into concrete initiatives that make a difference in people’s lives.  Calling for strong and effective partnerships, he said effective early-warning and conflict-prevention mechanisms require cooperation between the Council and regional and subregional groups.  Effective preventative diplomacy, good offices and mediation efforts must be fully supported, he continued, citing the transition of power in the Gambia and the revitalization of the peace process in South Sudan as examples of the value of such efforts.  Women’s participation is another vital element, he said, pointing to Liberia, where Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee and her fellow activists demonstrated the catalytic effect that women campaigning for peace at the grass roots level can have.  He went on to call for a robust approach to preventing illicit flows of small arms and light weapons, including strong cross-border and multilateral cooperation to complement the Arms Trade Treaty and other instruments.

Name to come (Belgium) said international efforts should target illicit arms trafficking, and while strengthening arms control, emphasize the importance of ratifying and fully implementing existing instruments.  A holistic approach to implementing the Silencing of the Guns initiative must examine the root causes of conflict, he said, adding that special attention must be paid to trafficking in natural resources, from diamonds to wildlife, which helps to ignite or intensify conflict.  It is also important to strengthen women’s access to justice and include more of them in conflict-prevention and conflict-resolution initiatives.

Name to come (Peru) said neighbourly regional cooperation is crucial to stamping out the illegal arms trade, as is full implementation of existing instruments and reducing poverty through a multidimensional focus on addressing the root causes of conflict.  Promoting education and job opportunities for women, children and young people is essential, he said, noting also the need to foster greater cooperation between the African Union and the United Nations.

Name to come (China) said peace and stability in Africa is a key to security and development around the world.  Yet, challenges remain, from poverty to security to fully silencing the guns by 2020.  Emphasizing the importance of strengthening the African Union-United Nations partnership, he said both should work more closely together in preventing and resolving conflict.  African Union peace and security operations are making critical strides while complementing the work of United Nations missions, he noted.  As such, the United Nations should provide predictable financing for African Union peace operations and scale up assistance to the continent’s countries in such areas as infrastructure and trade, with a view to reducing poverty and realizing the Sustainable Development Goals, he added.  Recalling that the question of internally displaced persons was discussed at the 2019 African Union Summit, he urged the United Nations to provide constructive assistance in that regard.  For its part, China provided $1 billion to fund projects related to silencing the guns by 2020 and will establish a China-Africa peace and security fund to further its support for those goals, he said.

Name to come (Kuwait) said the best way to silence the guns is to build sustainable peace, which can only be done by educating society so that all citizens can participate effectively.  As such, a conflict’s root causes must be closely examined, he said, adding that a culture of peace should be deeply rooted through democracy, access to justice and respect for human rights.  Emphasizing Africa’s deep importance to the Middle East and the world as a whole, he said Kuwait will continue its economic development cooperation with African States and help them to implement the newly adopted Council resolution.

PABLO CÉSAR GARCÍA SÁENZ, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, noted that the Silencing the Guns initiative is intended to create a conflict-free Africa and rid the region of human rights violations and human suffering.  Despite preventive efforts, Africa continues to face various challenges, as does Latin America, he said.  The proliferation of illicit weapons affects the entire latter region, he said, adding that in this regard, multilateral cooperation is key to addressing the issue.  Pointing out that these weapons kill hundreds of people around the world every day, he said they must be regulated strictly, emphasizing the importance of sharing best practices and applying international instruments.  Armed violence hits vulnerable groups such as youth, children and women hardest, he added.