The African Union (AU) has launched an initiative dubbed “Africa Amnesty Month” for the surrender and collection of illicit weapons, as part of efforts toward silencing guns in Africa by the year 2020, Xinhua reports.
The AU heads of states in July designated the month of September of each year, till 2020, as “Africa Amnesty Month” for the surrender and collection of illicit small arms and light weapons (SALW).
Speaking at the launching session, AU Director of Peace and Security Admore Kambudzi said the initiative would have a significant contribution to the AU efforts to control the illicit proliferation, circulation, trafficking and use of small arms and light weapons across the continent.
According to Kambudzi, “The weaknesses in the implementation and enforcement of laws regulating civilian possession of small arms and light weapons remain a significant gap across all regions of Africa.”
Chairing the AU Peace and Security Council for the month of September, Punkie Josephine Molefe, Botswana’s ambassador to Ethiopia and the AU, said the proliferation of illegal weapons remains one of the major security problems facing the continent.
“This is caused by a number of political, social, economic and cultural factors,” she said. “The honor is therefore upon us to ensure that while eliminating the scourge of illegal weapons in the continent, we address these challenges for a conducive environment, and then the people will have no reason to seek illegal weapons.”
The ambassador has stated that illicit weapons are sourced, first, outside the continent, through illegal trade facilitated by networks of corruption, illicit financing, clandestine transit and delivery to end users in Africa.
She further said that there are internal secondary sources located in conflict zones and post-conflict zones within Africa, from which illicit weapons spill over to other areas, thereby contributing to insecurity and violence.
“The international community’s inability to control arms transfer and trafficking contributes to the persistence of these activities and in turn the devastating conflicts that we continue to experience in our continent,” Molefe said.
“Armed conflicts continue to contribute to political crises, cause widespread humanitarian problems, refugees and internally displaced persons, and exacerbate famine conditions in some parts of our continent,” she added.
Molefe urged all AU member states to deploy concerted efforts to give the widest possible publicity to the initiative and fully facilitate the surrender and collection of illicit weapons in civilian hands into safe national storage or destruction.
The Pan-African bloc said the approach to implementing the “Africa Amnesty Month” should aim to create the conditions conducive for voluntary disarmament to encourage those individuals in possession of illicit weapons to bring them out and surrender them in confidence to the mandated state agencies.