Refuse to be Silenced by the Gun – Africa 2020

African Union turned 50 in 2013. Achieving its primary objective of decolonising Africa since its inception. In 2013 a celebration was held and declarations were put in place that by 2020 for Agenda 2063 the realism of gratuitous violence would be stopped. African leaders pronounced their determination to achieve the goal of a conflict-free Africa. So now that it is almost the end of 2020, how close are we to the goal? 

Searching deep and wide only to find that no systematic assessments of where we are on the matter of assessing conflicts in Africa. Luckily there were different non-profit organisations as well as media that released reports pertaining to this assessment on conflicts. This article aims to compile the information that is already out there into one centralised article. Listed below are just some of the governing bodies that make up the background and the politics that defined the violence and the Africa they wanted to be achieved in 2020.

African Union Peace and Security Council 

On 25 May 2013, and in order to substantially contribute to achieving the goals of the AU initiative on “Silencing of the Guns for realising a conflict-free Africa by the year 2020”. The African Peace and Security Architecture Prerequisites (APSA) Roadmap 2016-2020 was the document outlined to act as the battle plan to achieve this lifelong goal within 4 years. The Roadmap has 5 pillars and 5 strategic priorities.

  • Strategic Priority 1: Conflict Prevention
  • Strategic Priority 2: Crisis/Conflict Management
  • Strategic Priority 3: Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Peace Building
  • Strategic Priority 4: Strategic Security Issues 
  • Strategic Priority 5: Coordination and Partnerships

The African Standby Force (ASF) The ASF is one of five disciplines of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) that allows the AU to intervene within the Member States. Such intervention can only be done under strict conditions of war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity. The four other pillars are

  1. The Peace and Security Council,
  2. Panel of the Wise
  3. Continental Early Warning System
  4. The African Union Peace Fund

Africa Governance Report

The Africa Governance Report (AGR) is a product of cooperation and collaboration amid the African Peer Review Mechanism(APRM) and members of the Africa Governance Architecture (AGA) Platform. The AGR assesses the state of governance in Africa, intending to provide the Member States of the African Union with a comprehensive baseline that can help governments to enhance governance. A report Umoja welcomes…

Of Course to ponder on the idea that governance exists in business too, therefore as Africans and Individuals that are stakeholders of Africa( wherever we are in the world), we ought to be treated as such. Alluding to the ESG standard of management that investors seek in companies and so should political participants seek in forward-looking governments. And so the AGR should not only be exclusive to governments but to individuals that have entrusted governments with that authority. Hoping that the leaders will apply the constructive feedback from our home grown think tanks. However, in the meantime here is our draft on what was observed.

To literally burn and silence the guns, it’s crucial to know where they are coming from. Most of the weapons in Africa are imported. Official military expenditure in Africa stood at around $40.2 billion in 2018 in Egypt, Algeria, and Morocco, according to a study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)

Africa’s Conflict Zones

The AU has identified 21 current conflicts in the 55 countries that make up the African Union (as of July 2018). Some countries are experiencing internal conflicts and other forms of unrest, while others are facing violent disturbances as a result of economic difficulties, race, religion, political divisions, violent extremism, terrorism, etc.

A recent analysis for the African Union has identified four major conflict zones. the Mano River Region, the Great Lakes Region, the Horn of Africa, and the Sahel/Maghreb Region. The Afrobarometer report of 2016 studied 36 African countries on their level of freedom of speech, democracy, and freedom of association. Coming to an average of 48% in the freedom of speech among the 36 states. Even though the data is from 2016 the results will be mentioned in this 2020 summary of the conflict in the specific regions.

1) Mano River Region – Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)

Guinea – Complete freedom of speech 59% (outlier – 11% above average)

Videos, eyewitness testimonies, and satellite imagery have confirmed defense and security forces shooting protesters in the capital city of Conakry, resulting in several deaths and injuries. African Union and ECOWAS have been silent on this crackdown that violates human rights according to Amnesty International.

Nigeria – Complete freedom of speech 28%

‘Nigeria lacks police officers’. According to official sources in 2002, there is one police officer for every 700 Nigerians. Lagos, the world’s sixth most populous city with over 10 million people, has fewer than 12,000 police officers. Then-President Obasanjo’s administration pledged to equip the police, renew the barracks, and eliminate part of the high degree of corruption within the Force. SARS – Special Anti Robbery Squad was the result of this pledge stemming from the early 2000s.The end SARS campaign has been active since 2016 and came back with public protests in 2020 that turned to riots in Lagos. SARS has been reformed and re-badged, but nothing has changed ever since. 

Amnesty International has also reported on and campaigned against the use of torture by law enforcement agencies in Nigeria. In November 2014, it released the report ‘Welcome to hellfire’: Torture and other ill-treatment in Nigeria. This report revealed that torture and other ill-treatment are widespread and routine in military and police custody across Nigeria.

2) The Sahel/Maghreb Region – The Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CENSAD)

Egypt – Complete freedom of speech 33%

Egyptian security forces used teargas and bird shots on fleeing protestors’ demographics and total neglect from the state. On at least one occasion live ammunition, 2 men were killed while 496 are in detention. During the last two weeks of September, small protests took place scattered across villages, towns, and poor urban communities such as Kafr Qandil village, Giza, Dumiyat, Minya, Qena, and Luxor.

Lawyers said prosecutors told defendants they were being investigated on various charges, including “membership in a terrorist group”, “misusing social media”, “spreading false news”, “funding a terrorist group”, “participating in illegal assemblies” and “inciting illegal protests”. Prosecutors ordered that all those interrogated be detained for 15 days.

Not part of the four major conflict zones

Mozambique – Complete freedom of speech 31%

On Sunday, 23 August 2020, an unidentified group attacked Canal de Moçambique, a weekly newspaper with offices in Maputo. At around 8.00 pm, the group broke into the media house, poured fuel on the floor, furniture, and equipment, and threw a Molotov cocktail. the attack occurred four days after Canal had published an investigative piece on what the paper alleged to be an unethical procurement process involving senior officials at the Ministry of Mining Resources and Energy, and the governing party elites.

Arson case at Canal de Moçambique

The violent attacks in Cabo Delgado led by the armed group calling itself “Al-Shabaab, grew by 300% in the first four months of 2020, compared to the same period last year.With over 2,000 people killed, over 300,000 internally displaced people, and 712,000 people in need of humanitarian assistance. More than 350,000 people are facing severe food insecurity according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

(Neighbouring Mano Region and Great Lakes)

Article Focus: Cameroon – Complete freedom of speech 42% 

On 26 October 2020 Amnesty International published their press release following the killing of eight schoolchildren in the town of Kumba in the Anglophone region of Cameroon, with 12 other schoolchildren injured in the attack.

 Amnesty International’s Central Africa Campaigner, said: “The killing of eight schoolchildren inside their classroom is an atrocity that underscores the urgency of protecting ordinary people from the ongoing violence in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions. This horrific attack shows how badly the situation is deteriorating, and we call on Cameroon’s authorities to immediately take all possible measures to protect the population.“ Tity Agbahey

Tity mentions a drastic decline of an ongoing crisis in Cameroon. To further understand the ‘deterioration’ that Tity refers to, the following paragraphs of the article aim to grasp some context to last month’s killing of children.

In 1919, after the first World War. Cameroon which had been a colony of Germany had become up for grabs to another colonial power, owing to Germany’s defeat. The league of nations decided to split the country, partitioning 20% of west Cameroon to the British colony which neighbours their other colony, Nigeria. While the other 80% of Cameroon became a French colony. For further simplicity, French Cameroon is spelled Cameroun while British Cameroon retains its English spelling. The British further divided Western Cameroun into North and South. Post world war 2 the League of Nations ceased to exist, forming the United Nations, colonies became trusts and the UN began facilitating the decolonising of their trustee’s. The Southern House of Cameroon was formed to facilitate restoring independence to Southern Cameroons.

Southern Cameroon’s primary activists in the 1950s included Dr. Emmanuel Mbela, John Ngu Foncha, Solomon Tadeng Muna. The first seating of the Southern house of Cameroon was on 26 October 1954. On that day, Emanuel Mbela became the official leader of Southern Cameroon even though it was a semi-autonomous region, Mbela sought to form ties with Nigeria causing a new party to be formed called Kameroun National Democratic Party KNDP with Foncha and Muna leading it in opposition to Mbela. The UN in 1957 called on the administration to hasten the self-governance of semi-autonomous states. Southern Cameroon gained full self-governance and an election took place between Mbela and Foncha. Dr. Mbela won the election becoming the 1st prime minister of Southern Cameroon. On 1 February 1959 Foncha became the 2nd prime minister. During this time the UN had begun the process of ending colonial trusteeships with its colonies. Making French Cameroun gain their independence in January 1960.

The British gave Southern Cameroon a plebiscite with only two choices. One being joining Nigeria or 2 joining French Cameroun. While Southern Cameroon really wanted to be their own independent state the British had concluded that the country was not economically capable of functioning independently. Nigeria and French Cameroon gained their independence and British Cameroon having 20% of Cameroon that was divided into north and south, had to choose between French Cameroon or Nigeria. British Northern Cameroon massively voted to join Cameroon while British Southern Cameroon reluctantly voted to join French Cameroun, even though they wanted to be independent.

30th September 1961 the British administration left Cameroon; it was not long thereafter the French Cameroun military invaded Western Cameroon which was formerly known as South British Cameroon.

Former French soldier, Max Bardet was sent to Cameroon between 1962 -64 in the western Bamileke region, a helicopter pilot witnessing massacres and killings by the ruling army, strongly supported and funded by France. Army targeted mainly members of the UPC- Union of the Peoples of Cameroon, the organisation held Marxist ideology and not to be confused with the KNC.

Max states that ‘the army was ordered to kill the men. Not the woman even though they left them wounded by AK47 bullets and cutting off their breasts. The officer who was with Bardet was there to make sure no one was there to witness what was going on, no one to accuse or testify France. ‘ 

French advisors of President Ahidjo recommended the introduction of bilingual schools to assimilate Western Cameroon into the French culture .1972 20th May Federal Republic of Cameroon becomes the United Republic of Cameroon. Francophone Cameroun had the backing of the French while the British left turned a blind eye to their former ‘sunshine’.

Ahidjo then gave power to Biya and Biya thus changed the name to the Republic of Cameroon, removing one of the two stars from the flag that represented the unification of the two states.

The Ambazonia crisis is an attempt of Southern Cameroonians to demolish the dominant Francophone cultural hegemony. Since 1972, La République du Cameroun has dominated the Southern Cameroonians, which came into union with them from a weaker position with a population numerically smaller. As a result, La République du Cameroon has been making efforts not just to dominate them but to absorb them into the broader Francophone cultural system.

They equally demanded for the creation of a common-law school at the University of Bamenda and Buea

Fongum Gorji Dinka, a Southern Cameroonian attorney. Who became the first president of the Cameroon Bar Association and in 1984 -coined the name Ambazonia – the self-declared state of Southern Cameroon. Who was later arrested for treason? That has been the power struggle in Cameroon which led to the present killings of children. However many attempts before 2020 were largely peaceful but retorted with unlawful force from authorities.

On October 6, 2016, a sit-down strike was initiated by the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium (CACSC), an organization consisting of lawyer and teacher trade unions from the Anglophone regions of Cameroon. This protest was met with violence by authorities leading to arrests made of over 100 protestors and several deaths. 

A month later on November 21, 2016, Mancho Bibixy, stood in an open casket., declaring that he was ready to die protesting against the social and economic marginalization of Anglophone people in the Francophone state. This became known as the white coffin revolution.

Cameroon experienced its first Internet shutdown in January 2017 for 93 days. This came after Anglophone teachers, lawyers, and students went on strike over alleged social bias in favor of Francophones. This affected businesses, educational instructions, and many other organizations. Later in the year, the government repeated the Internet blockade in October. Mainly targeting social media and apps sharing videos of violations to protestors by the state. It continuously affected the country economically, and many citizens were forced to travel back and forth to regions with Internet access for business or information.

November 30, 2017, the president of Cameroon declared war on the Anglophone separatist’s Sun Newspaper. “I have learned with emotion the assassination of four Cameroonians military and two policemen in the South of our country — things must henceforth be clear. Cameroon is a victim of repetitive attacks claiming a secessionist movement. Facing these aggression acts, I would reassure Cameroonians that everything has been put in place to take out of the dark these criminals so that peace and security reign all over the territory.”

Anglophone activists who sought an independent state for the country’s English Speaking regions began to set fire to schools and attack teachers and students to enforce a boycott they had declared on local establishments. June 2018, UNICEF reported that at least 58 schools had been damaged since the beginning of the crisis. Most children have been deprived of the right to an education, with 30, 000–40,000 children affected

The Ambazonia crisis has been a series of pleas met with punitory acts of repression by the state. Further deepening the minority to take more radical steps for their lack of liberties and choosing not to truckle to Francophone authoritarianism. The colonial system of assimilation still haunts the 6 decades of colonial independence Cameroon. in 2000 UN secretary-general visits Anglophone Cameroon attempting to campaigning for negotiation rather than independence but after decades of failed dialogues and shocking death tolls majority of the Anglophones would rather opt for violence in return. The conflict gets worse and worse. 

How will this be reflected in the Annual Governance Report (AGR)? Where are the 5 pillars of the APSA or ASF on this long-standing conflict? Why are the 5 strategic steps in this violent cycle non-existent? Hello, it’s the end of 2020, the goal was to have all this done before December 2019. Does the UN have a strategy? Cameroon belongs to both the commonwealth and La Francophonie membership. To be a member I am sure it states that democracy, development, and peace must be the common vision? What of the innocent civilians who are forced to be caught in the crossfire? Let’s call for a responsive African Standby Force that must intervene promptly. A strategy to prevent conflicts from deteriorating even further. We have a plan and strategy lets implement it and find a way to make it work for all of us.

The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) developed the Africa Agenda for Children 2040. Seeing that the 2020 objective of silencing the guns was an overly ambitious effort and needs further pressure and support. The crux of the matter is that in these conflict zones whereby guns are not silenced and peace does not exist, children do exist, and quite frankly with the loss of schools and Ambazonia survivors living in forests what use do we have waiting another 20 years for the advancement of children’s rights to access nourishment and necessities, right to education, protection from abuse?

Maybe we can consider ourselves lucky because a #BlackLivesMatter or #EndSars post on social media is an expression of the freedom you have to associate with a cause or an organization. Your media is not censored or shut down by hegemonic governments. There is a relationship between trying to silence guns and violence or in reverse being eternally silenced by guns and violence. Lucky to live another day, peacefully in silence.

Germain Rukiki of Burundi has been jailed for 32 years because he chose not to be silent about the torture in the Great Lakes region. Khaled Drareni jailed for doing his work as a young journalist in Algeria, documenting police violence. These are our fellow Africans carrying that are leading the continental vision of silencing the guns. What rights and freedoms do you enjoy and how would you help celebrate them in the lead up to International human rights day on December 10? What kind of Africa do you want? 

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