In keeping with its efforts to be part of the movement for the promotion of peace in Africa, the Jesuit Justice and Ecology Network of Africa (JENA) will this year 2020 tag along with the efforts of the African Union in a campaign for peace via "Silencing the Guns by 2020" campaign. “Silencing the Guns” is a slogan of a project that targets silencing all illegal weapons in Africa. The campaign aims to promote the prevention, management, and resolution of conflicts in Africa. As part of AU Agenda 2063, the AU Heads of State and Government in 2013 adopted the Silencing the Guns by 2020 initiative as a flagship project that aims to end all conflicts in Africa by 2020.

Since 2014, Africa has made progress in the quest for peace and security, mostly by strengthening continental response frameworks and institutions, as well as by working with the UN and other organisations on the ground. These initiatives have borne fruits with the guns being silenced in previous hotspots such as Angola, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Significant strides have been made in protracted conflicts in Somalia and Sudan, and grassroots peace-building initiatives on the continent have also helped prevent and respond to potential conflicts.

While good progress has been made in reducing state-driven conflicts, recurring conflicts in several regions are rolling back gains already made in achieving lasting peace. Guns are still active in Libya, South Sudan, the Central African Republic (CAR), the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Lake Chad Basin, which includes Chad and parts of Nigeria, Niger, and Cameroon. Violent extremism in the Sahel and parts of the Horn and Eastern Africa is also a challenge. Terrorism and transnational crime are still a threat to the continent. Communal conflicts between herders and farmers over natural resources; violent urban crime and cultural practices such as cattle rustling are still rampant. Despite the AU leaders' resolution not to pass the burden of conflict to future generations, about 600 million young people in Africa are unemployed, uneducated or in insecure employment hence vulnerable to taking up arms.

protest PHOTO | AFP:  Women from more than 40 South Sudan organisations take part in an anti-war demo in capital Juba on December 9, 2017  

Call to Action – JENA Engages

To accelerate action, the AU is launching in February 2020 a continent-wide campaign on “Silencing the Guns” to mobilise all stakeholders to prioritize efforts on peace and effective socio-economic development. Recognising the importance of peace and following its promise through its strategic plan, JENA will increase its efforts in engaging for the promotion of peace. Along the lines of the recommendations of the AU, JENA plans to launch the campaign through a reflection forum. The forum will be held this month at Hekima University College, in Nairobi, KENYA. The event will bring together diverse stakeholders including Jesuit Social Centres, the clergy, academia, peace practitioners, and the media. JENA will use the event to create a platform for sharing experiences and building solidarity among individuals and organizations working on peace. More so, the event will create public and media awareness on the ongoing efforts for the AU led silence the guns campaign in Africa.

JENA recognizes the challenges that lead people to violent conflicts, including poverty, historical injustices, inequality, unemployment, climate change, illegal financial flows, and corruption should be addressed too for the guns to be silenced. Therefore, disarming alone is not enough. There is a need to find sustainable solutions to build peaceful and resilient communities. More so, JENA recognizes the media, women, and youth play a key role in peace-building and security on the continent and their contribution to silencing the guns is critical in achieving a conflict-free Africa. To contribute to the “Silencing the Guns” agenda, JENA will launch a continent-wide advocacy campaign with the aim of mobilising, engaging, and celebrating young men and women’s steps towards silencing the guns.