In an effort to continue the “Silencing the Guns” initiative, the African Union Peace and Security Council, in partnership with UNODA, its Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC) and the government of Togo commemorated the 2022 Africa Amnesty Month for the surrender and collection of illicit small arms and light weapons in Lomé, Togo on 5-6 September 2022. This commemoration held for the first time outside of the AU’s headquarters in Addis Ababa was an opportunity to highlight the ongoing challenges pertaining to illegal gun ownership, and further promote initiatives to address these challenges, including through the Africa Amnesty Month.
The two-day commemoration began with a high panel with the participation of H.E. Ambassador Bankole Adeoye, Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security of the AU, Professor Robert Dussey, Minister of Foreign Affairs, African Integration and Togolese Abroad, H.E. Ambassador Amma A. Twum-Amoah, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Ghana to the African Union and Chairperson of the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the AU for the month of September 2022, and Mr. Adedeji Ebo, incoming UNODA Director and Deputy to the United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs.
Ambassador Amma Twum-Amoah, President of the PSC of the AU, pointed out that the AAM “aims to promote Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) programs, as well as to encourage the participation of African civil society in peace and disarmament efforts, including youth and women, non-governmental organizations, faith-based organizations, the private sector, and the media”.
Mr. Adedeji Ebo, in his statement delivered on behalf of Ms. Izumi Nakamitsu, Under Secretary-General and UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, highlighted that “Silencing the Guns in Africa is an ideal that can be reached through strong policy commitments and practical programmes, such as the Amnesty Month. The UN is mobilizing support for Silencing the Guns through UN Security Council resolution 2457 (2019) and we stand ready to explore additional avenues for such collaboration.”
The official commemoration also included presentations and performances by civil society, including a children’s choir, youth music groups and plastic artists promoting peace and disarmament. The government of Togo marked the end of the first day commemoration with a symbolic destruction of about 2,000 weapons.
Togo hosted this 2022 Amnesty Month commemoration given its participation in the joint AU-UNODA Amnesty Month project. Under this joint project, UNODA, with the technical assistance of the Regional Centre on Small Arms control in the Great Lakes Region, Horn of Africa and Bordering State is currently supporting Liberia, Tanzania and Togo to carry out their Africa Amnesty Month activities. Liberia launched its project on 16 August, while Tanzania and Togo initiated their national activities on 5 and 7 September, respectively. All three beneficiary States will be organizing sensitization campaigns to raise awareness on the dangers and risks of illegal gun ownership and illicit flows of small arms and light weapons; they will also enhance their capacities in stockpile management and community-based policing and will proceed with the collection and destruction of the weapons voluntarily surrendered by civilians.
The Amnesty Month commemoration also provided an opportunity for the AU PSC to visit UNREC, where the fifteen council members were briefed on the mandate and work of the Regional Centre. Following the visit, the AU PSC issued a statement and “expressed gratitude to the UNREC for the visit […]and emphasized the need for continued cooperation between the AU and the UNREC to advance human security for a stable, united and prosperous Africa”.
During his official visit to Togo, Mr. Ebo also met and discussed with Foreign Affairs Minister Prof. Robert Dussey on ways to further enhance cooperation. Mr. Ebo thanked the Government and people of Togo for hosting and supporting ODA’s regional centre for Africa, UNREC.