African Union searches for methods for silencing guns

The continent will soon recruit a strategist in security sector

THURSDAY September 8, 2022


By Patty Magubira

The Tranquillity News Reporter, Tanzania

The African Union Commission is seeking a lasting solution for Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) falling in the hands of insurgents, terrorists, violent extremists and other organised criminal groups.

The AU Commission is currently in a process of identifying a competent consultant to carry out a study that will map out illicit weapons flows linked to activities of the groups, particularly terrorists, on the continent.

The consultant is expected to provide empirical evidence in the study to answer the question of how terrorists and their groups acquire and continue building weapons stockpiles.

The AU Commission’s terms of refence, whose copy The Tranquillity Newshas seen, requires the consultant to, among other things, identify strengths, weaknesses and gaps; and to propose commensurate policy and operational responses on how to prevent terrorists from acquiring illicit weapons.

He will have to identify gaps to counter the illicit trafficking and circulation of SALWs, including the vulnerability porous borders pose, as they allow terrorists and criminal groups to move the illicit weapons from one country to another and from one region to another.

Terrorism in Africa destroys property and ruins economic growth. PHOTO | ALJAZEERA

He will also have to document good practices for preventing terrorists from acquiring weapons, and include them in the guidance to the AU member states and make concrete and actionable proposals on practical steps the member states to take to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons and ammunition.

The consultant must have at least seven years of work experience on peace and security issues, with knowledge in arms control, counter terrorism and preventing violent extremism and radicalisation.

He must have a Master’s Degree in Law, international law, political science, sociology, criminology or relevant field, or security sector-related background.

“Professional training courses in illicit arms control, disarmament and or defence against terrorism would be an added advantage,” the AU Commission says in the terms of reference.

The consultant will take home a fixed lump-sum fee of $16,000, 10 per cent upon submission and approval of an inception report; 30 per cent upon submission and review of draft report on the study; and 60 per cent on submission and acceptance of the final report.

Kenya Civilians, who had been hiding during a gun battle, hold their hands in the air as a precautionary measure before being searched by armed police leading them to safety, inside the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, on September 21, 2013. PHOTO | AP


The Consultant will have to submit an inception report including a work plan and methodology within seven days after commencing the assignment.

He will have to hold technical consultative meetings and interviews, either physically or virtually, with various relevant AU directorates and entities, including the African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism, and the African Union Mechanism for Police Cooperation.

The consultant will, in 25 days after commencing the study, prepare a draft report, making actionable proposals on how best to respond to the threat of terrorists acquiring weapons, highlighting specific context in the regions.

He will present the draft report to the AU Standing Committee on SALWs and the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Re-integration Directorate for consideration, and will reflect the proposed amendments before he submits a final report within 45 days after commencing the assignment.

Terrorism and transnational organised crimes are a major threat to peace, security and stability to AU member states. The threat is compounded by various factors, including terrorist’ ability to acquire a range of weapons and to use improvised explosive devices and unmanned aircraft systems.

On August 7, 1998, between 10:30 and 10:40 a.m. local time, the US embassies in Nairobi , Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, were attacked in coordinated truck bombings. Approximately 212 people were killed and an estimated 4,000 wounded in Nairobi, while the attack killed 11 individuals and wounded 85 in Dar es Salaam. The bombings were timed to mark the eighth anniversary of the deployment of US troops to Saudi Arabia and were later traced to Saudi exile and the late al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. PHOTO | AP

One of the threats is the widespread availability of illicit SALWs in the hands of unauthorised groups or individuals.

Illicit arms are major enablers to the growing armed violence the continent is witnessing, negatively impacting on state security, human security, peace, stability, and sustainable development on the continent.

During its 12th meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in December 2019, the Specialised Technical Committee on Defence, Safety and Security pleaded with the commission to conduct the study before it reiterated the request on May 14, 2022.

The AU policy organs have, in various meetings, also expressed concern over the illicit proliferation, circulation and trafficking of conventional weapons, particularly SALWs, as posing serious threat to continental security, and fuelling armed conflict.

The 2021 biennial Report of the UN Secretary-General on SALWs quoted research by the International Centre for Counter Terrorism which concluded that terrorists used SALWs to carry out 85,148 terrorist attacks in the past decade.

The Small Arms Division of the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States in collaboration with Conflict Armament Research held a two-day independent experts workshop on March 4, 2020, in Abuja, Nigeria to review guidelines and standard operating procedures on Article 19 of the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms which seeks the reduction of the proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons in the region. PHOTO | ECOWAS

In preparation for participation in the UN process of negotiating the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in SALWs in All Its Aspects, the AU adopted the Bamako Declaration on an African Common Position on the Illicit Proliferation, Circulation and Trafficking of SALWs in December 2000, which was subsequently adopted in July 2001.

AU member states have also adopted instruments at the regional level that specifically provide for strengthening cooperation and collaboration among them in the fight against illicit SALWs.

These include the 2001 Protocol on the Control of Firearms, Ammunition and Other Related Materials of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the 2004 Nairobi Protocol on the Control, Prevention and Reduction of SALWs in the Great Lakes Region, the Horn of Africa and Bordering States.

Others are the 2006 Convention of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on SALWs, their Ammunitions and Other Related Materials and the 2010 Central Africa (Kinshasa) Convention for the Control of SALW, their Ammunition, Parts and Components that can be used for their Manufacture, Repair or Assembly.

It is noted in the AU Commission Report of the Study Weapons Compass: Mapping Illicit Small Arms Flows in Africa of 2019, that most illicit small arms circulating in Africa are initially legally produced or owned and only subsequently diverted to armed groups, criminals, or other unauthorised users at some point during their life cycle.

The instability caused by Islamist militants is blamed for weakening the Mozambique government and humanitarian organisations’ responses to COVID-19 in Cabo Delgado. PHOTO | ACCORD

The main patterns of diversion include transfer diversions from national stockpiles, including peacekeeping operations, and from civilian owners.

The Small Arms Survey and African Union Commission, 2019, further indicates that there are approximately 40 million civilian-held firearms in circulation in Africa.

Only about 5.8 million are reported as being officially registered, while 16 million are unregistered, with the status of the remainder remaining unclearΩ

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