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Africa seeks to silence arms proliferation by 2020 Zambia opens operation” voluntary surrender of guns ”

In its quest to completely eradicate the illegal circulation of arms in Africa by 2020, Zambia has taken the lead and has launched operation ‘’voluntary surrender of guns’’. The move was initiated by the African Union last year. In 2017, the AU launched the African Union Amnesty month-September, with aim to reduce or eradicate the proliferation of arms in Africa. Though a global phenomenon, its prevalence of it in the African continent is what is very alarming and remains a bone of contention. But can Africa completely avert arms proliferation or circulation by the year 2020.

The Zambian government has announced plans to kick start programs which will enable its citizens voluntarily give up or surrender arms. The country’s Minister of Home Affairs Stephen Kampyongo revealed that the process would unfold in such a way that those in procession of arms would not pass through any jurisdiction or be tried. The announcement made Monday on September 10 this year comes to solidify an initiative brought forward by the African Union to ensure the total elimination of arms illegally circulating in the continent by the year 2020. Categorically approving that arms proliferation has favored unending conflicts, insecurity, threatened democracy in the African continent, the continental body African Union in 2017 set aside the month of September as an ‘AFRICAN UNION AMNESTTY MONTH’. ’This project was made official after Zambia’s president Edgar Lungu presented a concept of silencing or eliminating arms in Africa by the year 2020. Incumbent President Lungu unveiled the idea in November 2016 during a retreat of the Peace and Security Council of the AU that was held in Lusaka. Welcoming the idea of the President Lungu, the African Union then set a 2020 deadline to wipe out illegal movement of arms in Africa.

                               African Union Amnesty Month

, The African Union –AU- declared the month of September, of each year till 2020, as “Africa Amnesty Month” for the surrender of illegally owned weapons/arms, in line with the African and international best practices.

Speaking to an analyst who spoke on condition of anonymity, the pundit said ”the illicit proliferation of arms in Africa is not an isolated case as it is a global phenomenon. Available data on arms and light weapons indicates that out of 640 million circulating globally, 100 million are found in Africa alone”. How did we get here? Millions of these weapons were shipped to Africa during the cold war to equip anti-colonial fighters and newly independent states. The collapse of the Soviet bloc saw a new flood of arms entering Africa at cut-rate prices. A Soviet manufactured AK-47 rifle then could be purchased for as little as $6 or traded for a chicken or a sack of grain. In Somali capital Mogadishu alone in 1999, the Red Cross estimated that the city’s 1.3 million residents possessed over a million guns. In fact, small arms which include rifles, pistols and light machine guns are filling African graves in ever increasing numbers – from the killing fields of Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, to the streets of Lagos and Johannesburg and now Cameroon, it is evident that these weapons trade cannot be averted in Africa by 2020 as the number of conflicts has increased over the past decade. The influx of arms in Africa with Nigeria as a hot spot has led to an increase in criminality rate that has undermined security and the rule of law.

Africa has been prone to arms proliferation which has in turn resulted in political and social unrests in most parts of the continent. In most cases the arms fall into wrong hands and the dynamics of the proliferation keeps changing and arms unaccounted for after a conflict or a war. He added that even though some countries are making effort to reduce the influx of illegal arms proliferation, crime statistics has proven that more criminals are arming themselves as the access to fire arms in Africa has become easier as compared to previous years which further goes to assert that it is likely impossible to avert the illegal circulation of illicit weaponry by 2020.

Measures have been taken by countries such as Mali and South Africa most affected by gun violence to avert the circulation, treaties and declarations have been signed such as the Bamako declaration of 2000, the African union too is playing a major role to combat the illicit trade and circulation of arms on the continent by improving arms laws and import and export controls especially at the boarders. On the other hand, some pundits have expressed concerns that grinding poverty, inequality, leadership limitations, poor governance are some of the factors favoring arms proliferation in Africa.  In a nutshell, African governments, continental organizations like the African Union and ECOWAS have remained determined and firm in their efforts to reduce or stop the illegal circulation of small and light weapons and make Africa a conflict free area by the 2020.

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