On 10 November, the Republic of Niger officially launched its Africa Amnesty Month project. Since 2017, the African Union (AU) has declared the month of September of each year as Africa Amnesty Month for the surrender and collection of illegally owned small arms and light weapons (SALW).
In 2021, the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) supports the implementation of the Africa Amnesty Month initiative in three countries, namely Madagascar, Niger and Uganda. The project is funded by the Federal Republic of Germany, while its implementation is facilitated by the Regional Centre on Small Arms control in the Great Lakes Region, Horn of Africa and Bordering States (RECSA).
The aim of Africa Amnesty Month is to promote the fight against the illicit flow of SALW and contribute to the AU’s initiative to ‘Silence the Guns in Africa’ by 2030. African Member States are encouraged to adhere and to promote the amnesty month by widely publicizing the opportunity for citizens to hand in illegally owned SALW and facilitating the collection and destruction of such weapons. The AU also invites its Member States to implement activities beyond the sole month of September to extend the scope of the initiative.
Mr. Lamido Moumouni Harouna, Minister and Deputy Director of Cabinet of the President of the Republic of Niger, presided over Niger’s launch event, which featured speeches from the President of the Niger Commission for the Collection and Control of Illicit Arms (CNCCAI), General Yousoupha Maiga, President of the Niger Parliamentary commission on defence and security, Honourable Mounkaila Issa, the Executive Secretary of RECSA, General Badreldin Elamin Abdelgadir, and the Director of the UN Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC), Mr. Anselme Yabouri.
In a press conference immediately after the launch event, CNCCAI, RECSA and UNREC highlighted the amnesty project activities undertaken in Niger, which include community sensitization; promoting the voluntary surrender of illicit weapons and ammunition’ capacity building for local civil servants and defence and security forces on community policing with a view to enhancing safety and security in communities; developing actions in the fight against armed sexual and gender-based violence; and marking and destroying surrendered weapons.
Senior government officials and other dignitaries, including the Speaker of the National Assembly of Niger, also expressed gratitude to UNODA, UNREC and RECSA for their valuable technical support in fighting the illicit flow of SALW and its consequences, such as terrorist acts and national and regional instability. Structural fragilities at Niger’s porous borders call for tailored and continuous support from the UN and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to help improve border cooperation with a view to efficiently preventing and fighting violent extremism in Niger and in Western Africa and the Sahel, the officials added.
UNODA’s implication in the 2021 edition of Africa Amnesty Month builds on the success of the previous edition, where the project jointly supported by UNODA and the AU resulted in the collection and destruction of more than 2,000 weapons across seven beneficiary States.