Opinion: Osinbajo’s noble advice to African leaders

by Jide Ojo

The tragic consequences of wars and conflicts in Africa are self-evident. The millions killed and maimed, the millions displaced, children out of school, set us back decades economically and socially. Our resolve to end wars and conflicts in Africa is, therefore, our vote for a future of real growth and development for our continent.”
– Acting President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo on July 3, 2017 at the 29th AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The Africa Union held its 29th Summit last week and it was another rainbow coalition of leaders from the 54 African countries. They jaw-jawed once again to find lasting solutions to the myriads of challenges confronting the continent. Nigeria’s delegate to the summit was ably led by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo. Incidentally, Nigeria, this July, officially assumed the one-month rotational chairmanship of the African Union Peace and Security Council. Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the AU, Mr Bankole Adeoye, took over from Mr Susan Sikaneta, the Permanent Representative of Zambia, who held the Presidency for the month of June.

It is important to state that “the Peace and Security Council is the standing organ of the AU for the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts. The PSC was established to be a collective security and ‘early warning’ arrangement with the ability to facilitate timely and efficient responses to conflict and crisis situations. The PSC’s core functions are to conduct early warning and preventive diplomacy, facilitate peace-making, establish peace-support operations and, in certain circumstances, recommend intervention in Member States to promote peace, security and stability. The PSC also works in support of peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction as well as humanitarian action and disaster management.”

Professor Osinbajo was at his eloquent and articulate best when he delivered his address on Peace and Security in Africa. Apart from the opening quote of this article which is an excerpt from the Acting President’s speech, he also said, inter alia, that: “We have no choice; peace, security and stability are fundamental to the realisation of sustainable development and to assure our people of decent and happy lives. As we move towards silencing the guns by 2020, our collective resolve must remain solid and steadfast to effectively tackle conflicts, terrorism, violent extremism and the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.” My president, you’re indeed spot on!

Africa’s growth and development have been stunted and retarded as a result of a plethora of senseless conflicts and wars. From the fratricidal hostilities in Somalia, South Sudan, Guinea Bissau, Libya, DR Congo and Central African Republic to the Xenophobic attacks in South Africa. The continent is also being plagued by terrorism and violent extremism in Sinai Peninsula of Egypt as well as the North Eastern Nigeria and parts of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Mali where Boko Haram insurgency is raging. In the 1990s Nigeria deployed huge human and material resources under the ECOWAS Military Operations better known as ECOMOG in order to quell uprisings in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

In all these bloodlettings, millions of lives were lost, many were maimed, huge refugee and internally displaced persons emerged and on many occasions, United Nations has to step in when AU cannot mobilise sufficient resources for its peacekeeping operations. Out of the 16 Peace Keeping Missions currently being undertaken all over the world, nine of them are taking place in Africa alone. They are in Western Sahara, Liberia, Dafur, Mali, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Cote D’Ivoire, DR Congo and Abyei. That is to let you know the burden Africa has become to the rest of the world.

Due to the youth bulge in the continent, the frequent conflicts has led to the ugly phenomenon of child soldering where very young boys are conscripted to fight in a war that they do not understand the basis. As earlier mentioned, these conflicts have led to significant increase in the number of IDPs, refugees, out-of-school children as well as famine. The Acting President was on point when he advised that as a first step, AU must ensure the full implementation of the African Peace and Security Architecture, especially the operationalisation of the African Standby Force and the Peace Fund.

It is unfortunate that since 1963 when Organisation for African Unity was formed before its metamorphosis into the African Union, the continent has no standby force. Funding has equally remained a potent challenge as the continental body continues to be starved of financial resources by member countries who failed to pay their annual dues. Southern African Legal Information Institute research shows that five countries — Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria, and South Africa –cover at least 66 percent of the member states’ share of the budget.

However, for years most of the AU’s budgets and programmes have been financed by foreign donors, including the European Union, the US, China, the World Bank and the United Kingdom, according to available financial statements. While the AU’s budget grew from $278.2 million in 2013 to $393.4 million in 2015, external financing also rose from 56 percent to 61.7per cent in the corresponding years.

Hear our Acting President again, “We must redouble our efforts, and without equivocation avail the necessary resources, in order to successfully achieve the goals set out in Agenda 2063. We need to rekindle our political will and determination not to bequeath to the next generation of Africans the burden of wars, poverty and misery. It is, therefore, necessary for the Assembly to reaffirm the overriding importance of holistically addressing the root causes of violent conflicts in our countries.” One of the seven aspirations of Agenda 2063 which was developed in 2013 when AU celebrated its 50th anniversary is to have ‘a peaceful and secure Africa’. Part of the milestones set under this aspiration is to ‘silence the guns by 2020’. Is that feasible?

It is indeed a noble aspiration. However, barely three years to the attainment of that target, we’re still faced with the challenge of proliferation of small arms and light weapons which are smuggled into many of the armed conflict zones in Africa. These unlicensed weapons are difficult to mop up due to the porous international borders of many African countries coupled with the lack of political will to act. Last Thursday, I was on Silverbird Television to discuss this issue and the moderator asked me how to address the root causes of conflicts in Africa.

My answer was that these have been well documented from many commissioned pieces of research by African Union itself and those conducted by academics in ivory towers as well as civil society organisations working with regional and continental bodies like AU. They range from ‘sit-tightism’ by some African leaders to flawed elections, injustices, poverty, external influence (regime change policy of some Western countries), marginalisation, distrust, discriminations and lack of constitutionalism. What is to be done to address all these identified triggers of conflict?

Good governance.

Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

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