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Silencing the Guns in times of COVID-19: UN Chief’s call for global peace gains support in Africa

Secretary-General António Guterres
Secretary-General António Guterres

Silencing the Guns in times of COVID-19: UN Chief’s call for global peace gains support in Africa

Parties to conflicts in many countries consolidate existing ceasefire or move toward laying down weapons
6 April 2020

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has said that his appeal on 23 March for a global ceasefire in the wake of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has received broad international support as parties to conflicts in many countries consolidate existing ceasefire or move toward laying down weapons.

Briefing the press on 3 April on the impact so far of his appeal, Mr. Guterres said: “The call has been endorsed by an ever-growing number of Member States, some 70 so far, regional partners, non-state actors, civil society networks and organizations, and all UN Messengers of Peace and Advocates for the Sustainable Development Goals. “Religious leaders—including Pope Francis—have added their moral voice in support of a global ceasefire, as have citizens through grassroots mobilization online.”

In Africa, parties to conflict in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Libya, South Sudan and Sudan have accepted the call, he said. For example, the Southern Cameroons Defence Forces, an armed wing of the African People’s Liberation Movement, announced a temporary ceasefire on 25 March.

The Secretary-General encouraged other groups to follow suit and reiterated the UN’s readiness to assist the authorities and the people of Cameroon in this regard.

The Sudanese government and most of the armed groups in that country have also announced cessation of hostilities to mitigate the security and humanitarian conditions in Darfur.

“The Sudan Liberation Army/Abdul Wahid (SLA/AW) has agreed to a de-facto ceasefire. Similarly, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North/ Abdelaziz Al-Hilu declared an extension of the unilateral cessation of hostilities to parts of the Two Areas under their control for an additional three months, except for self-defense purposes,” according to a note detailing responses to Mr. Guterres’ appeal.

In South Sudan, the Secretary-General’s appeal has “bolstered efforts to uphold the existing arrangement on Cessation of Hostilities agreed by the warring parties, which created the minimum conditions for the formation of the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity on 22 February.”

Meantime, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Central African Republic Mankeur Ndiaye has called on the signatories to the February 2019 Peace Agreement, including the government and 14 non-state actors, to respect their commitment to end all fighting.

Nevertheless, Mr. Guterres highlighted the difficulties in upholding a ceasefire as “conflicts have festered for years, distrust is deep, with many spoilers and many suspicions.” He added that “in many of the most critical situations, we have seen no let-up in fighting—and some conflicts have even intensified.”

In Libya, he said, “Government of National Accord and Marshal [Khalifa] Haftar’s Libyan National Army welcomed calls to stop the fighting. Yet clashes have escalated drastically on all frontlines, obstructing efforts to effectively respond to COVID-19.”

The appeal by Mr. Guterres follows concerted efforts already underway in Africa and led by the African Union (AU) for warring parties to silence the guns on the continent.

The theme for the 33rd AU summit held last February in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, was "Silencing the Guns: creating conducive conditions for Africa's development" The heads of state and government summit also saw the kick-off of the AU’s year-long campaign to promote a conflict-free continent.

The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat, says that warring parties have a moral and humanitarian obligation to “immediately stop fighting to facilitate the measures being taken by Member States and other actors to combat and defeat the coronavirus pandemic.”

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