Global Competition For Africa
Dr. Bem Japhet Audu
Firearms have a long and significant history in Africa. From their early introduction into the continent, largely as items of trade, firearms have been intricately bound in the various forms of European intrusion into Africa, from the slave trade to pacification and colonization. Predictably, the history of firearms in Africa has attracted substantial scholarly attention over the past half a century. The sales of arms have become a serious security challenge in the world today. This is due to their lethal efficient nature, easy accessibility, indiscriminate usage, and the devastating havoc they often used to wreak in many societies around the world.
The excessive availability of arms is the repercussion of the experiences of the Cold War. The rise in arms production and its proliferation dynamics have direct connection with the events that evolved during the Cold War. The United Nations Disarmament Commission (1995) reported that one factor bearing on the availability, circulation, and accumulation of arms, (small and light) weapons in many conflict areas is their earlier supply by Cold War opponent. The role played by Cold War in intensifying the production of arms was further reinforced by the activities of globalization. The global experience provided grounds for easy networking of arms dealers, easy procurement, and transportation of arms illicitly across international borders, to weak states with porous borders and weak or absent state control system.
Globalization expanded the arms market and created room for the emergence of sophisticated arm brokers. With the sheer number of companies producing arms rising, production of arms also increased. There are 640 to 650 million small arms circulating in the world today. About 8 million new guns and 14 billion units of ammunition are manufactured every year by 1,249 companies in 92 countries – with the United States and the European Union producing about 75 percent. Similarly, with 16 billion units of military ammunition produced every year, there are small arms and ammunition enough to shoot every man, woman and child on the planet twice. Thus, arms have continued to account for increased rate of mortality on a daily basis, worldwide. According to Kytömäki, more than 2,000 people are killed as a consequence of armed violence daily and between 500,000 and 750,000 people are killed annually.
There is an estimated 100 million arms in Africa (small and light), especially around the Horn, including Somalia, Ethiopia, Southern Sudan, the violent belt of Central Africa and many areas of West Africa. In some countries like Sudan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, possession of guns is almost synonymous with the people’s cultural lives; almost everyone carries a personal weapon. The undue availability of arms especially in illegal hands has continued to rob the continent of its peace and stability. The global competition for Africa in arms sales and proliferation of military bases is also another dilemma that has affected peace and stability in Africa.
It is in this context that this study seeks to examine the global competition for Africa in relation to arms/military sales and military bases. The study is divided into seven main sections, after the introductory part, the second section discusses Africa, global ties and fire arms, examining the trends from the pre-colonial to colonial and the cold war period. Section three of the work focuses on the post-cold war global competition for Africa. Here arms/military are discussed, as well as the establishment of military bases in Africa by global powers. Section four of the work, focuses on Arms/military sales, military bases and insecurity in Africa. Section five examines AU’s ‘Silencing of the Guns by 2020’, while the sixth section discusses the prospect for peace in Africa, while the final section is the conclusion.
Although there is no doubt that firearms have had a significant impact on Africa’s history, there has been little consensus on the subject beyond the fundamental acknowledgement “That weapons have had an impact on African history cannot be denied.” White also adds that, “…the nature of that impact is more questionable”. Northrup echoed this sentiment where he avers that, “Firearms were undoubtedly the most major technical invention to arrive from the Atlantic, and their impact on the continent has been passionately debated.” Ajayi acknowledges that firearms were the most important commodity traded into Africa, owing to a lack of indigenous manufacture, but emphasized that analyzing the consequences of this imported technology has resulted in a plethora of inter pretentions. Indeed, the function and history of weapons in Africa has produced such a wide spectrum of viewpoints that any discussion of the subject is fraught with danger. This section focuses on Africa, global ties, and firearms. The section also discusses the issues relating to the importation of firearms into Africa in three major strands; the precolonial, colonial and the cold war eras.
The Pre-colonial Era
The European weapons industry underwent substantial structural changes in the mid to late nineteenth century, resulting in the ‘creation of the world firearms market between 1856 and 1878,’ in which Western Europe, Russia, and the United States were key exporters. Large corporations transitioned from rail and general steel production to weaponry production as part of this process. The German Krupp and the British Armstrong, both breech-loader pioneers, are two examples. During the imperial period, the fledgling small arms complex in industrialized Europe was bolstered, partly due to the expansion of corporate production. The establishment of DWM in Germany is a good example. In the late 1800s, DWM acquired smaller firms such as Mauser and invested in new manufacturing facilities and weapon designers such as Georg Luger. DWM became known for its cutting-edge small-arms technology and grew to become one of the major small-arms producers. The self-loading pistol was one of DWM’s creations.
Africa was impacted by the gun revolution in a variety of ways. The Europeans dumped large quantities of surplus weaponry as they rearmed with breech-loaders in the 1860s and 1870s, and repeating rifles in the 1880s. Many of these arrived in Africa via the coastal or trans-Saharan trading routes. The Indian Ocean trade route appears to be crucial in the proliferation of breech-loaders across Africa. Breech-loaders are said to have arrived in East Africa as early as 1886. Prices on firearms going to Zanzibar, Portuguese, and French East Africa in 1897 were higher than prices on firearms going to West Africa that year, implying that the firearms sold to East Africa were newer or of higher quality, with one possibility being that East African imports contained more breech-loaders than West African imports.
A number of studies have shown that Africa receives very large quantities of obsolete weapons after the breech-loader revolution. In portions of West Africa in the 1860s, one gun was imported per 103 persons every year. Meanwhile, it is estimated that East Africa imports approximately 100,000 weapons per year. According to Beachey “In the second part of the nineteenth century, firearms were widely used in East Africa”. His research discovers that “the arms trade in East Africa was linked with the invention and employment of new types of fire-arms in Europe,” alluding to the way East Africa got outmoded weaponry from Europe following the breech-loader revolution. However, in the mid-1880s, breech-loader guns began to be shipped in significant quantities to East Africa, shortly following their introduction into European conflict in the late 1870s.
Pankhurst looks into the supply of small arms to Ethiopia at the end of the nineteenth century and discovers that the initial trade supported the assumption that mostly outmoded weapons were supplied. According to primary data, Italy and France profited handsomely from the sale of arms to several Ethiopian kingdoms through their protectorates. In France and Belgium, dealers bought outdated guns and sold them in Ethiopia for up to five or six times more. Ethiopia paid for the arms imports in part with cash and part with ivory, gold, and civet. However, towards the end of the nineteenth century, Ethiopian monarchs’ armaments had improved in quality.
In one armaments transaction in 1884, the Italians agreed to furnish Menelik (an Ethiopian regional ruler) with 50,000 Remington rifles and 10 million ammunition in annual installments over a ten-year period. In 1891, a Russian lieutenant in Ethiopia estimated that Ethiopia had received 100,000 rifles from Italy, France, and Britain in the previous two decades, while other estimates varied from 80,000 to 120,000. During this time, arms imports from Russia, Greece, and Switzerland were also noted. Arms sales from Europe were frequently routed through Djibouti to Ethiopia. Pankhurst claims that Ethiopia bought more weaponry of higher quality and quantity than other African countries. The Ethiopian army was mostly outfitted with contemporary rifles and revolvers, although other countries had received vast supplies of antiquated weapons. Armed soldiers were also present in the Ethiopian army, but firearms were usually reserved for chiefs elsewhere in Africa. By the early 1880s, practically all Ethiopian soldiers were armed. Between 1906 and 1935, a special European weapons control pact targeting Abyssinia only reduced imports of small arms and ammunition.
The above narrations have shown how large-scale small arms imports were made available through international trade and alliances between foreign representatives and national and regional rulers during the early imperial period. At the period, private production, merchants, and transit points were all common features of the small weapons trade.
The Colonial Era
Given that ‘We cannot understand the development of social forces and social and political relations in post-colonial states without taking into account earlier interactions between colonizers and colonized,’. The common consensus is that under colonialism, the colonial state was the exclusive source of armaments for Sub-Saharan Africa. The differences between the imperial and colonial periods have been outlined by sources. In 1911, the Governor of the East Africa Protectorate described the ‘arming of the locals’ in the East Africa Protectorate’s border areas ‘notorious,’ claiming that it was “practically impossible to prohibit the entrance of arms” from France and “other foreign origins.” The British Governor offered that “we shall arm our locals with old rifles of our own manufacturing,” based on a proposal by the Governor of Italian Somaliland, while seeking a multilateral agreement among European colonial powers to limit weaponry and ammunition supplies through Djibouti.
The proposal was rejected by the British Foreign Office. While underlining the importance of ‘controlling the supply of arms and ammunition to the natives in Uganda and the East Africa Protectorate’, however:
Seriously doubts…. arming natives with rifles of an old pattern, as it would be possible to exercise but little control over the rifles and they would probably be traded away, while ammunition would have to be supplied by the Government which might possibly be used against the Protectorate troops”.
The correspondence demonstrates a shift in European thought regarding small weapons control during colonialism, as European concerns and domains of influence were expanded from export controls to import controls and considerations of gun ownership as part of the transition from imperialism to colonial rule. According to existing customs statistics, colonial authorities streamlined weaponry imports over time, reducing the scale of weapons influx while limiting the source countries. Arms shipments to Sub-Saharan Africa were restricted under the Brussels Act and national legislation. However, in order to carry out its law enforcement, military, and border control tasks in the colonies, the colonial regiments imported weaponry themselves. The colonial power frequently kept a small army on hand in the colonies, which was armed entirely by the same nation.
According to colonial annual reports, the East Africa Protectorate purchased weaponry and ammunition worth GBP 27,396 in 1912–13 (about GBP 2.8 million now) and GBP 27,253 in 1913–14 (approximately GBP 2.7 million today), with 89 percent coming from the United Kingdom. Arms and ammunition imports fell to GBP 21,263 (about 0.96 million today) in 1920–21, with 74% coming from the United Kingdom. The colonial authority in Ghana bought 6,087 weapons and pistols for GBP 24,273 in 1917 (about GBP 300 per weapon in today’s pricing) and 1,745 guns and pistols for GBP 10,461 in 1918 (nearly GBP 365 per weapon in today’s prices). Over the two years, 200,000 pounds of gunpowder were imported, according to the investigation.
In the years 1926–31, Mozambique spent USD 65,519 on weaponry purchased from Portugal and Portuguese possessions (equal to about USD 0.9 million today). In the years 1926–1931, the Italian colonies in North Africa and Africa’s horn (including Eritrea and Somalia) bought weaponry worth USD 226,800 (USD 3.6 million in today’s money). Meanwhile, between 0.5 and 0.7 percent of global imports were reported by the Belgian Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi between 1926 and 1931 (USD 7.4 million in current terms). Belgian colonies imported guns worth USD 186,000 between 1931 and 1936. (USD 3.1 million today). In 1909–1914, Nyasaland (Malawi) imported less, with a total value of GBP 10,523 (GBP 1.05 million in current rates), with the majority coming from the United Kingdom. Nyasaland had a tiny group of colonial rulers and settlers at the time. Between 1920 and 1924, South Africa, which had a significantly bigger white governing elite and was not covered by the Brussels Act, imported weapons, pistols, and revolvers for GBP 218,573 (GBP 11.5 million in today’s money)? In the period 1926–1931, South Africa’s imports accounted for 1.2–2.2 percent of global imports, or around USD 18 million at today’s values. South Africa’s imports of weaponry and ammunition climbed from 4.6 to 8.5 percent of global imports between 1931 and 1936, amounting to almost USD 160 million today.
Data on arms imports became more difficult to get after the League of Nations collapsed and the outbreak of World War II. Military imports to the colonies began to be excluded from annual colonial reports, but there is little reason to suppose that they ceased here (as an example, several reports note that the trade figures exclude military items). According to a recent baseline investigation identifying sources of small-caliber ammunition, ammunition only produced by France from 1950 to 1980 (7.5 mm 54 mm for bolt-action and semi-automatic rifles) was still widely found in Ivory Coast in 2014. In 2012, identical ammunition was seized in Niger, and in 2013 in Liberia. The study also finds Soviet Union ammunition produced in 1950–1955. At the period, ammunition was typically specific, and rifles could only use cartridges from a few manufacturers, keeping importers dependent on the same supply throughout time. Despite the fact that colonial powers were often the primary source of supply, the Norwegian Initiative on Small Arms Transfers has documented Angolan imports of small arms worth USD 1.7 million from Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States between 1962 and 1974 (during the liberation war), as well as minor imports from a number of other countries.
The Cold War Era
Arms imports to Africa increased dramatically after colonial independence. New independent regimes sought arms imports as a means of governing the new governments, which they often did forcefully. During this period, arms control agenda was almost entirely focused on superpowers, (Weapon of Mass Destruction) WMDs, and big conventional weapons. Data on permitted (Small Arms and Light Weapons) SALW transfers dating back to the 1960s is collected in the Norwegian Initiative on Small Arms Transfer (NISAT) database. The most complete source of SALW transfers during the Cold War is this database. Because of the paucity of state-provided records, as well as the broad geographical and historical coverage, it’s difficult to discern accurate trends through time, but they do hint to interesting developments from the colonial period.
To begin with, the figures show significant discrepancies in imports between African countries. Furthermore, imports from Sub-Saharan Africa indicate that nations were able to diversify their arms acquisitions among numerous exporters, and that the same state frequently obtained weapons from both the Eastern and Western blocs. According to NISAT, Ethiopia imported SALW from the United Kingdom (USD 1.5 million), the Soviet Union (USD 1.8 million), Germany (USD 2 million), the United States (USD 2.3 million), Yugoslavia (USD 3.3 million), and Italy (USD 3.8 million) during the Ethiopian–Somali War in 1977. Unfortunately, there are no figures for Somalia at this time. Sudan purchased SALW from a dozen countries in the mid-1970s, mostly from Europe but also from China, Egypt, the Soviet Union, and the United States; the two largest importers were China (USD 0.9 million) in 1974–1975 and the Soviet Union (nearly USD 3 million) in 1973 to1975.
Former colonial powers continued to be the most important suppliers. During the period 1970–1975, the DRC imported a total of USD 7.7 million in small guns, mostly from Belgium. Although Senegal imported small arms (on a limited scale) from a dozen other countries in the East (China, Czechoslovakia, and the Soviet Union) and the West (specifically, Canada, Germany, Greece, Poland, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, the United Kingdom, and the United States), as well as a couple of African countries (Gabon and Benin), France remained the largest supplier, exporting small arms worth USD 21.1 million from 1962 to 1981.
In the 1970s, Liberia imported USD 1.4 million worth of firearms, with 1.3 million of those classified as non-military or hunting firearms (the military weapons supplied by the USA and the non-military from the UK). According to records, the Ivory Coast had the biggest imports of SALW from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s. Between 1964 and 1985, France provided the great bulk of SALW to the Ivory Coast. Between 1964 and 1974, Ivory Coast imports were USD 7.5 million, and USD 30 million between 1975 and 1985. In comparison, from 1995 and 2003, imports totaled USD 17.2 million. In response to persistent ceasefire violations and a deteriorating humanitarian situation, In 2004, the United Nations Security Council placed an arms embargo on Ivory Coast. The resolution permitted the delivery of firearms and related materiel, as well as technical training and assistance, solely for the support of or use in the reconstruction of the defense and security forces of the Ivorian Government of National Reconciliation. Such deliveries had to be approved in advance by the appropriate Sanctions Committee.
Following the ban in 2011, France sold SALW for around USD 50 million, Bangladesh sold SALW for USD 8.3 million in 2006, and Pakistan sold SALW for USD 72.6 million in 2011, all of which aided the Ivory Coast’s security sector reform. The formation of national armed forces in newly independent African republics resulted in a significant increase in conventional armament shipments to Africa in the 1950s and 1960s. The total number of imports remained low, owing in part to the former French colonies’ continued participation in the French defensive system. The weaponry trade between Europe and Africa was driven by economic incentives rather than political restraints. South Africa, for example, imported more big conventional guns than the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa combined in 1969, while being under a UN arms embargo. Former colonial powers continued to be the largest suppliers of major conventional arms to Sub-Saharan Africa in 1971, accounting for only 30% of the region’s supplies. One rationale was that European countries such as France, Italy, and the United Kingdom supplied military assistance to former colonies and countries where the donor’s nationals made up a big proportion. These schemes frequently involved recipient states purchasing armament in exchange for free training, guidance, or infrastructure from the supplier state.
The cold war period heralded a return to free arms trade with African governments and non-state actors as trading partners, spurred on by national self-determination discourses, state sovereignty ideals, the growth of modernization theory, and Africa’s integration into the Cold War. The multilateral transparency regime collapsed at the international level. Instead, the United Nations implemented a new arms control regime known as the arms embargo. The weapons embargoes included both targeted sanctions and conditionality, which could be used to influence state behavior or even regime change in importing states, based on the trade denial idea formulated in imperial and colonial arms control practices.
Historians have proposed a variety of narratives to explain the arms trade and its impact on Africa over time, with differing emphasis on themes like technology, local concerns, cultural symbolism, and European influence, In the 1990s and 2000s, a more coherent narrative or discourse about armament arose. This narrative has made two primary points about the small arms trade: the scale and dynamics of the small weapons trade in the post-cold war period were mainly unpredictable; and the negative impact of small arms on security was significantly bigger in the post-cold war period than at other times.
The dominant small arms narrative described the post-cold war period as characterized by intense proliferation of small arms and light weapons (SALW). Small arms and light weapons proliferation is primarily a post-Cold War issue. Despite the fact that vast amounts of small arms and light weapons were transferred into developing countries during the Cold War, it is strange that the proliferation problem has worsened as a result of its end.
The rapid spread of small guns in the 1990s, particularly in Africa, prompted Michael Klare to invent the phrase “the Kalashnikov Age” to describe the post-Cold War era. According to Darkwa “The prevalence of SALWs in West Africa can be traced back to the mid-to-late 1960s”. Given, however, the reduction in government control over small arms in the aftermath of the Cold War, as well as the fact that:
West Africa was not a target for the proxy wars of the superpowers and did not witness the large-scale distribution of arms to Cold War satellite states … It can therefore be assumed that the majority of arms in circulation in the sub-region are relatively new and a product of post-Cold War dynamics.
According to Bourne, “From the mid-1960s through 1989 …the now-famous global weapons trade arose, displacing the private trade in surplus arms and minor gifts from colonial powers, which had fueled limited SALW spread.” Bourne also states that, the post-Cold War period saw a remarkable growth in the number of SALW manufacturers, which is partly explained by the reemergence of commercial providers and a broad dispersion of SALW technologies and stocks. As a result, the worldwide SALW market has shifted from a supplier-driven market to a buyers’ one.
After the conclusion of the Cold War, the proliferation of small guns really took off, partly due to globalization and partly due to an increase in weapons stocks ready for export. Although historical materials and modern interpretations of them are prone to errors and even exaggeration, the idea that Africa’s small arms trade after the Cold War is unparalleled simply does not hold up to historical scrutiny. Furthermore, because the end of the cold war is seen as a watershed event for small arms proliferation in Africa in the mainstream narrative, explanations relating the small arms problem to the end of the cold war are readily available. Several authors have highlighted the rise of small guns in Africa as a result of armed forces downsizing and changes in procurement patterns in the north in the early 1990s. Following the conclusion of the Cold War, the former Soviet Union bloc, in particular, has been accused of dumping surplus weapons and ammunition in countries with ongoing conflicts, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
According to Amnesty International, between 1999 and 2002, Russia significantly increased its supply of Kalashnikov firearms to African countries. Russian weapons are also said to have made their way to African crisis zones via third countries, commercial intermediaries, and international brokers. The UN reported one significant incidence in which Victor Bout’s Air Cess business secretly transferred weaponry to the DRC in exchange for diamonds. Much of the reportedly related weaponry is said to have originated in the former Soviet Union. Africa as a whole is said to import weapons from Ukraine worth almost one billion dollars per year, a figure that has been rising since the 2000s. Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are said to be the top African buyers of Ukrainian weapons, however, Ethiopia was the recipient of one of the largest documented deals in recent decades. 10,000 Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifles were among the weaponry imported, which included both major conventional armaments and small arms. Ukrspetsexport, a state-owned corporation, has sold not only Ukrainian guns, but also surplus weaponry from Ukraine’s armed forces that it inherited from the Soviet army.
Arms proliferation has been linked to the acceleration of globalization in the post-Cold War era in general. Greater post-Cold War global interconnection in terms of trade, international banking and business, and improvements in the aviation and shipping industries, according to Stemmet, resulted in increased small weapons proliferation.
Arms have played a significant role in battle and human rights abuses for hundreds of years, according to military historians. Small arms are the most extensively utilized weaponry in conflicts. According to the Small Arms Survey, small arms killed almost 200,000 people annually in conflict and post-conflict circumstances in 2002. Later, the research team admitted that the estimate was possibly too high. Between 2002 and 2008, the Uppsala Conflict Data Program identified at least 12,000-37,000 battle-related deaths. Small arms are responsible for approximately 90% of civilian casualties in armed warfare. Conflicts become more severe and last longer when small arms are used. They exacerbate post-conflict violence and obstruct the maintenance or establishment of law and order.
President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia has labeled small arms proliferation “one of the primary drivers of armed conflict.” Small arms “contribute to an increase in the size and pace of killing, the risk of sickness, and the possibility of violations of international humanitarian law,” according to the Small Arms Survey. During the 1990s, an unchecked flow of small arms into Africa’s Great Lakes regions armed government and non-government military forces, killing 1.5 million people in just four years. Between 1998 and 2001, it is believed that around 250,000 civilians were shot and died in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). According to the United Nations, small arms are used in more human rights violations than any other weapon.
According to Craft and Smaldone, who studied the impact of arms transfers on political violence in independent Africa, arms exports are a key predictor of conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa. They explain this result by claiming that arms imports boost the state’s perceived military capability, which is important to both domestic and international leaders. Weapon imports may also increase the military’s prestige and institutional role in society and policymaking, as well as lead to more aggressive reactions to perceived security threats.
The arms narrative and the proliferation of military bases have continued to gain international attention, particularly since the mid-1990s, when several violent conflicts in Africa, including the genocide in Rwanda, civil wars in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Sudan, an inter-state war between Eritrea and Ethiopia, and the collapse of government in Somalia, occurred. Africa has borne the brunt of global conflicts, and while overall armed conflicts have decreased worldwide since the mid-1990s. Since the mid-1970s, the frequency of conflicts in Africa has fluctuated, with more than 15 conflicts per year in 1991, the period between 1997 and 2002 and 2011.
The number of armed conflicts in Africa increased from 11 conflicts in 1989 to 16 conflicts in 1998. Since 1989, Africa has experienced 75% of the world’s wars involving non-state groups. Between 1989 and 2014, Africa was home to 86 percent of the world’s 250 community clashes. During the same time period, Africa accounted for more than 90% of the deaths caused by violence directed at people. Furthermore, African opposition groups have grown increasingly successful at the end of conflict. Whereas rebel groups stood as the winner in only 15 per cent of the conflicts between 1946 and 1980, between 1981 and 2012, the rebels prevailed over the government in 45 per cent of the recorded victories.
Recognizing the damaging impact of conflicts on Africa’s development, African heads of state pledged to eradicate violence from the continent by 2020. They intended to bring peace to citizens and ensure that the burden of conflict was not passed down to the next generation of Africans. African politicians have welcomed the proclamation, which has since become known as the Silencing the Guns in Africa by 2020 (STGIA2020) program, as a significant commitment to dealing with conflict. Given the central role of peace in Africa’s socioeconomic growth, achieving the declaration’s goals was expected to make a substantial contribution to efforts to reposition Africa worldwide and make progress toward Agenda 2063’s goals. STGIA2020, as one of Agenda 2063’s 14 flagship programs, intends to “end all wars, civil conflicts, gender-based violence, and violent conflicts, as well as avoid genocide.”
Aspiration “4” of Agenda 2063 contains details of Africa’s goals to be realized through STGIA2020. This confirms the desire for a peaceful continent and the establishment of working systems for peaceful conflict resolution at all levels. It underscores the need of instilling a culture of peace and tolerance in children and youth, as well as harmony at the grassroots level, so that diversity management becomes a source of wealth and social and economic transformation. This goal, however, is related to others that aim to address the root causes of violence. Poverty, unequal access to opportunity, a proclivity for exclusion and marginalization in governance, weak governance, injustice, and the squandering of development possibilities are only a few of them.
STGIA2020 is not the AU’s first attempt to end all violent conflicts on the continent. In 1963, the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was partly driven by an understanding that in order to attain ‘human progress, conditions for peace and security must be established and maintained’ in Africa.
The OAU was specifically tasked with ensuring that governments intensify their efforts to achieve a better living for Africa’s peoples. The OAU’s transformation into the AU in 2002 was influenced in part by the AU’s shortcomings in the face of conflicts and other types of instability on the continent. When the African Union (AU) took over from the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 2000, African leaders were:
… Conscious of the fact that the scourge of conflicts in Africa constitutes a major impediment to the socio-economic development of the continent and of the need to promote peace, security, and stability as a prerequisite for the implementation of our development and integration agenda.
As a result, the African Union adopted the goals of supporting peace, security, and stability, as well as democratic ideals and institutions, public involvement, and good governance; human rights; and long-term economic, social, and cultural growth on the continent. To achieve these goals, the Assembly formed the Peace and Security Council (PSC), which is responsible for, among other things:
… Promote peace, security, and stability in Africa, in order to guarantee the protection and preservation of life and property, the well-being of the African people and their environment, as well as the creation of conditions conducive to sustainable development.
The African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA), which consists of structures/institutions, legal frameworks, policies, norms, and guiding principles, supports the PSC. In a nutshell, AU policymakers have previously considered or implemented a variety of gun-control measures. These include policy decisions, institution creation, and measures made under the auspices of the APSA and AGA to promote peace and governance.
Ending all violent conflicts in Africa and reduction of arms importation and military bases, especially illegal military bases may seem very tasking. However substantive progress can be achieved if the various actors and institutions identified play their respective roles in contributing towards silencing the guns. Suggesting a way-forward will be AU centered as a viable continental organization that has the potential of providing peace and stability in Africa. These are outlined below.
Because there is a lack of conceptual clarity at the continental policy level about what STGIA2020 is and is not, the initiative’s scope has been too broad, and it has been implemented on an unsustainable timeframe. For the endeavor to succeed, the African Union must focus on defining issues such as the import, circulation, and availability of guns (or even just SALWs), as these play a crucial role in the continent’s war. STGIA2020 should therefore focus on the African Union’s efforts to control weaponry rather than ending Africa’s conflict or bringing peace to the continent. Attempting to eliminate any conflict produces considerable overlaps with the APSA and AGA, as well as many other AU agencies, in terms of function and goal. Since the commencement of STGIA2020, there has been very little progress.
The AU should drop the 2020 deadline and instead, proclaim it a multi-year AU program encompassing a variety of projects concentrating on the many facets of Africa’s conflicts and insecurity. The AU can then engage with the UN, development partners, the commercial sector, and civil society players to conduct projects that address various aspects of Africa’s insecurity concerns as part of a multi-year program. The African Union should take proactive measures to address the numerous issues and roadblocks that STGIA2020 has faced since its start.
It should use the African Human Security Index (AHSI) to monitor and evaluate the Master Roadmap, as well as establish a standard reporting form, document activities taken to silence the weapons, and support a strictly scientific assessment of interventions in various circumstances. It should fully support the STG2020 unit’s work, improve coordination and collaboration within the AU Commission, and define the division of labor in terms of policy formulation, adoption, implementation, and monitoring, as well as progress assessment, between the AU, Regional Economic Commissions, Regional Mechanisms, and member states. The effort should be led and owned entirely by Africans. The African Union should hold African and international arms producers, as well as unlawful foreign military sites, accountable for the bloodshed they cause on the continent.
A fundamental flaw in the initiative is the lack of a monitoring and evaluation mechanism to assess progress in the execution of STGIA2020. This needs to be remedied immediately. However, AU member states lack capacity on a variety of fronts and may have difficulty establishing STGIA2020 monitoring and reporting units. As a result, the AU should create a section that concentrates on arms control data and monitors attempts to control arms. This unit must be placed in the PSD. It shall report on national progress and the situation of small arms and light weapons import and circulation on the continent to the yearly AU meetings.
AU Member States
Member states should design and implement action plans, prioritize the building of strong, functioning national institutions, and fully implement policies and procedures to avoid, manage, and resolve all forms of conflict as main drivers of STGIA2020. Member states should promptly submit annual updates on their efforts in this area to the AU’s STGIA Unit as soon as possible, and avoid engaging in actions that contradict STGIA2020’s goals. AU member states should be urged, supported, and enabled to sign, ratify, and completely domesticate all AU instruments and decisions relevant to the promotion of peace, justice, governance, and development, because violence is partially a governance problem that can be avoided. This includes participating in the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) process and following its recommendations.
Regional Economic Communities
The AU’s building blocks, RECs and RMs, should act as vital links between the AU and member states in order to achieve the STGIA2020 goals. They should create regional action plans and collaborate closely with their member states to implement the Master Roadmap by hosting meetings to raise awareness of STGIA in their areas. Importantly, RECs and RMs should improve their institutional capacities and efficiency in implementing the AU’s APSA and AGA frameworks, as well as press their member states to resolve intrastate and interstate border-related problems.
This paper examined the nature of global competition for Africa in relations to Arms/military sales and military bases. The work also discussed the nature of arms proliferation in Africa from the pre-colonial, colonial to the cold war periods. The paper gave currency to the dynamics of post-cold war global competition for Africa and the security implication of arms proliferation in the continent. The study further assessed the AU’s silencing the guns initiative by 2020, as well as its seeming impact on the African security system.
In an attempt to curb out the challenges of the circulation of firearms amongst individuals rather than the government through a global networking. The paper suggests that, if the African Union (AU) can work with the international community under the leadership of the United Nations in check-mating the illegal distribution and circulation of weapons in most African states. If this is done, the paper argues that military sales and circulation of weapons in African will drastically be reduced.
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