The African Union Master Roadmap of Practical Steps to Silence the Guns in Africa by Year 2020 has just one year left before the deadline, and turning this vision into reality is looking increasingly unlikely.
"We are now approaching 2020, but the guns are still there," Dessu Meressa from the Institute of Security Studies in Addis Ababa told DW during the AU's meeting earlier this month. "So when we say we are silencing the gun, it is part of the aspirations."
These just remain aspirations and a pipedream which are far from being achieved as demonstrated by a recent study by the AU Commission and Small Arms Survey.
The first-ever continental study, which was officially launched at the AU Headquarters in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa which will be spearheaded by the AU, was published under the title "Weapons Compass: Mapping Illicit Small Arms Flows in Africa."
According to the study, armed groups within the continent still showed great capacity to move arms across the continent.
Somalia is the quintessential failed state that illustrates the cost of small arms and light weapons proliferation and the challenges of recreating the conditions for sustainable development in a heavily armed environment. Despite numerous internationally sponsored peace conferences and billions of dollars in assistance, much of Somalia remains engulfed in civil war and has become a breeding ground for international terrorism.
The weapons which enter the illegal trade originate from both within and outside Africa, although weapons trafficking across borders in Africa is the primary source of illicit arms. In the vast majority of cases, sophisticated organizations and networks — often made up of criminals, corrupt security officials and returning peacekeepers — are usually the ones who specialize in moving weapons across African borders.
The mode of trafficking can range from large convoys carrying a significant amount of weapons and ammunition, or the so-called 'ant trade' in which the weapons are smuggled across borders in smaller numbers, but at a high rate. The lie of the land also makes a big difference.
The study also found out that the trafficking of already illegal weapons across borders, the production of craft or artisanal firearms, as well as the diversion of national stockpiles of arms including stockpiles held by peacekeeping forces and civilian holdings through theft, loss, and corruption as the major sources of illicit weapons in Africa.
"Craft-produced firearms on the continent range from rudimentary pistols and shotguns to sophisticated assault-type rifles," the study revealed.
In Ghana, for example, craft weapons are involved in 80 percent of gun-related crimes, according to the Ghana Police Service, while Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast ranked domestic craft weapons production as the most significant source of illicit arms.
The most worrying aspect of the report the involvement of some national governments and peace keeping milesions in the illicit trade. Corruption is one of the key factors with some weapons originating from national stockpiles before finding their way to armed groups.
Kawu Munguno says a big issue is the lack of cooperation between African security forces — particularly in Borno state in north-eastern Nigeria, which shares borders with Niger, Chad and Cameroon.
"For quite some time there has been a problem in managing the joint forces," he said. "Leadership has been a problem and there has been a withdrawal of forces time and time again from the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF). We don't have enough security officers to man these porous borders."
This is in sharp contrast to the report which tries to sing praise by stating that African countries "have shown strong political will to tackle the scourge of illicit weapons flows" as both the AU's roadmap and relevant sub-regional conventions exemplify.
These are just policy documents which are not representative of the action taking place on the ground.
However, initiatives such as the study are important steps in understanding the problem at hand. They help policymakers make more informed decisions and craft strategies that are more responsive to the challenges they are facing.
According to the AU, the study mainly aimed to inform small arms-related policy development and targeted response measures by the different stakeholders, including AU policy organs and regional inter-governmental organizations.
"In light of the global nature of illicit arms flows, the study is relevant not only to Africa but to the international community as a whole as it strives to realize Agenda 2030 on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)," the AU said.
An effective strategy to the achievement of the dream of peace is not centred on spending billions on conferences in hotels. It requires greater commitment to all the partners involved.
The development and integration of Africa hinges on greater stability and peace.
Therefore, there is need for a coherent and holistic approach by the international community to tackle the problem. This has been lacking in countries such as Libya where the international community has taken a divisive stance in the on going crisis.
On one end, there is a IN recognised government in Tripoli, and on the other is a rogue general backed by the US. This represents how continuously the international community does seeds of discord and create an environment for the birth of terrorist groups.
Africa has a lot to do on her own as well to make sure a lot is achieved if peace is to be achieved.
Header Image Credit: American Progress