AU Call - Make Peace Happen
SOURCE: New Era
By Catherine Sasman
The 2010 'Year of Peace and Security,' declared by the African Union, is Africa's "moment to leave a legacy" for future generations and make history, said the AU Commission's chairperson, Jean Ping. Will we achieve it?
Armed conflict in Africa kills hundreds of thousands of people every year. Conflict is a shorthand for chaos in governance, rampant humanitarian disasters, the destruction of livelihoods and economies.
Particularly over the last two decades, Africa's conflicts are characterised by ethnic and religious extremism, corruption, exclusionary definitions of citizenship, poverty and disease, the illegal exploitation of Africa's renewable and non-renewable natural resources, and mercenaries.
Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Jean Ping, said this situation is aggravated by the illicit proliferation, circulation and trafficking of small arms and light weapons, and the scourge of drug trafficking.
Similarly, there are resurging threats of terrorism and transnational organised crime.
Political instability also scours the continent with a reappearance of unconstitutional changes of governments, which the AU said represents a serious setback to various levels of the democratisation processes in different regions.
It makes special reference to election-related violence and conflicts, and the persistence of border disputes and conflicts.
The threatening climate change catastrophe worsens the situation multi-fold.
Hopefully, the African Union's 53 Heads of State call for a cessation of all armed hostilities on September 21 will be a wake-up call that Africa can become a continent without destruction, that is often not the making of the continent, but "imported" conflicts to protect the interests of others.
On this day, ask the Heads of State hopefully, a ceasefire should be observed in all conflict zones, there should be no physical violence inflicted, and no rude words should pass between all peoples on the continent.
"We will save lives, and the lessons we will draw and the activities that will flow from a single day of non-violence and action for peace will provide a very strong impetus to promote peace permanently," said the Year of Peace Secretariat based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The significance of a planned event of such magnitude, said the Secretariat, signifies an unprecedented opportunity to review current efforts to peace building on the continent and to launch new initiatives for peace and security.
It further seeks to address ongoing challenges and to open up spaces for all stakeholders to contribute to the achievement of the objective of a conflict-free continent.
Attempts will be made to engage all parties at political, institutional, civil society and community levels, and to encourage all citizens to play a part in "making peace happen".
Peace Day was established by the United Nations in 1982 as a single rallying point for Africa to show that peace is possible and that it saves lives.
A by-product of peace, intended the UN, was that people would have better access to basic commodities like food, water and shelter when hostilities cease.
Since 2002, the AU made strides to prevent conflicts from happening, and to have conflicts managed in a better way.
Two years later, the Peace and Security Council was inaugurated. This led to the development of institutions like the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA).
Among others, these institutions were given the task to identify the root causes of conflicts in a holistic and systematic way.
The AU also adopted a number of instruments on human rights, governance, the rule of law, democracy, elections, disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation, terrorism and good neighbourliness.
The AU reported "significant" reductions in violent conflicts since then, but acknowledged that the situation in large parts remained "fragile", while new conflicts flared up.
The continental body further acknowledged that despite all efforts, many countries remain trapped in a cycle of violence.
Last year in August, all heads of African states adopted the Tripoli Declaration on the Elimination of Conflicts in Africa and the Promotion of Sustainable Peace.
And this is the year to see if all the work that has gone into the peace initiatives will work - albeit for one day, for now.
The AU is optimistic that from September onwards, peace efforts will be boosted, that concrete results would have materialised, and that in particular, more enabling political and social environments would have been created.
Focus will be placed on five main objectives: To give momentum to peace and security efforts; to give greater visibility to ongoing and past efforts by the AU on the ground; to speed up the implementation of committees made up of various member states to various AU peace and security instruments; and to mobilise resources to support these efforts.
The key activities
The AU said a major event of progress towards the noble goal for peace and security will the operationalisation of the African Standby Force (ASF) that will make the APSA fully operational.
Other key activities are the 'AMANI Africa' exercise; the commencement of the implementation process of the African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty (also called the Pelindaba Treaty) that was entered into in July 2009; the convening of a conference of State parties that is provided for in the Treaty and of the AU Non-Aggression and Common Defence Pact that came into force in December last year; as well as the meeting of African ministers in charge of border matters, which was already held in March.
Moreover, renewed efforts will be made to strengthen AU's mediating capacity through training in mediation, the establishment of a roster of potential envoys and technical mediation experts, effective communication and information-sharing, and decision-making among partner organisations in the fields of operation.
Importantly too, is that countries have committed to monitor the implementation of all relevant AU decisions on conflict situations. In particular, a plan of action was adopted in the Tripoli where the Tripoli Declaration was adopted.
This plan of action outlines concrete steps to be taken to facilitate the resolution of existing conflicts and crises, and the consolidation of peace where it is achieved.
Particular attention will be given where unconstitutional changes of governments and election violence and disturbances occur.
This is in light of the expected adoption by the AU Policy Organs in July.
A "Flame of Peace" was launched at the start of the year that was intended to travel to all 53 capitals and to return to Addis Ababa in January next year.
Further, the appointment of ambassadors of peace and the establishment of a high-level advisory council was to be done. This is still in the process of being formed, and will assist the AU Commission with its activities throughout this year.
Other envisaged activities are the production of "stamps for peace", special awards at leading film festivals on the continent, competitions for artists, and so on.
Steps will be taken to involve those who are affected by armed conflict, such as refugees, internationally displaced people, and returnees.
For this, the AU Commission will organise a commemorative event in honour of Africa's peacekeepers, especially those that have perished as a result of their work.
The role of the Peace and Security Council (PSC) will be pushed to prominence. This year, it has visited Sudan, and next year it is anticipated that the PSC will visit all countries of concern, make field visits, and become more proactive in considering situations of potential and incipient conflict.
The AU further intends to mobilise resources within the continent in support of peace efforts.
In this regard, a decision was made to increase the statutory transfer from the AU regular budget to a Peace Fund from six to 12 percent. More is needed, said Ping, who would put forward more proposals.
Another activity is to enhance African universities' capacities to research peace and security and for the promotion of African solutions.