NEW YORK, 2 September (Office for Disarmament Affairs) — September marks another opportunity for African countries to silence the guns. During a month‑long amnesty campaign, everyone on the continent in possession of an illegal weapon can hand it in to authorities without fear of prosecution or harm.
To help reduce illicit flows of small arms and light weapons, and strengthen ties between communities and law enforcement, the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, together with the African Union Commission, is supporting seven African countries in 2020 in their implementation of September Africa Amnesty Month, or “SeptAAM2020”.
In 2013, African States agreed to the collective aim of “Silencing the Guns in Africa by 2020”, striving to end all conflicts, build durable peace and foster sustainable development on the continent. As 2020 marks the target year of the flagship initiative, a campaign to accelerate progress was launched in Addis Ababa during the African Union Summit, held in February under the theme, “Silencing the Guns in Africa: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development”. To help end the flows of illicit small arms and light weapons, the African Union in 2017 established the “Africa Amnesty Month” initiative, to take place each September until 2020.
Worldwide, some 85 per cent of all small arms and light weapons are in civilian hands. In Africa, civilians own more than 40 million small arms, but very few civilian owners are licensed. These weapons are enablers of armed violence and constitute a serious threat to peace.
Women, men, girls and boys all deserve to live in safe, non-violent homes and communities. Helping to remove illicit weapons from circulation is an important way to achieve this goal.
The success of this month-long campaign requires all parts of society to come together for joint action. Governments, civil society organizations, communities and individuals — notably, women and youth — have a crucial role to play in alerting fellow citizens to the disastrous effects of illicit small arms. In countries supported by the project, young people were asked to share their creative ideas for campaign slogans.
Africa Amnesty Month is part of a one-year project between the African Union Commission and the Office for Disarmament Affairs, launched in March and implemented with the Regional Centre on Small Arms. Generous financial support from Japan enables programmes for awareness-raising, capacity‑building of law enforcement, weapons collection, safe storage and destruction in Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic and Kenya. In July, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire and Ethiopia joined the project, with financial support from Germany.