High Level Dialogue: What will it take to Silence the Guns in Africa by 2020?

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(Pic Courtesy of dgtrends.org)

“Guns don’t usually talk, but when we make them talk, they shout, BOOM BOOM.”

In kick starting discussions on what it would take to silence the guns; H.E Olusegun Obasanjo unsparingly reminded us of the consequences of guns blazing in the continent; their impact on human development, economic development and the extent to which they destroy families, majority of the time women and the youth.

“Identity, colonial legacy, democracy, popular participation, resource management, religion and inequality must be addressed now,” stated the former president of the Republic of Nigeria. We need to give more weight to discussions on the elimination of corruption and correct interpretation of religion. Youth are our present and future and we need to ensure education and employment for all.”

“I admit that we did not address the civil war in Nigeria well, we didn’t look at the aspects of diversity dividing us; and it is for this reason that I believe the extent to which lessons learnt are shared is pertinent in managing and preventing conflict. Our war lasted 30 months; I realized that I am a Yoruba but my Yorubaness could not overtake my Nigerianess. That we must embrace our diversity for collective national development,” he stated.

“With the state having three pillars of government borrowed from colonialism, that being the executive, the legislature and judiciary, so too do we need a fourth pillar which is a higher authority of active solidarity,” informed the former head of state. “This is the only way that we can deal with the problem of social frustration and subsequently disallowing it to fester.”

Advocate Thuli Madonsela, the Public protector in South Africa shared too her views on silencing the guns. In a somber tone, she reiterated the need for respect of the rule of law during elections and civil and political rights. The impressive prosecutor highlighted the dire consequences of inadequate public awareness and citizens’ rights emphasizing the paramount importance of ensuring access to good information by citizens. “Where people are misinformed or ignorant they will create their own narratives and take the law into their own hands,” she stated. She also raised the pertinent point of benevolent governments needing checks and balances because they too are prone to making mistakes.

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(Pic Courtesy of dgtrends.org)

Dr. Noha Bakr, Assistant minister of International cooperation in Egypt posed a poignant question to the audience as she shared her views on the aforementioned topic. “There is no spring in Africa, how then did we end up calling it the arab spring? We did not anticipate the repercussions of not walking our talk.”

The Egyptian assistant minister emphasized the need to address high levels of illiteracy and shared on their experiences in Egypt. She highlighted the poignant aspect of democracy being measured through the ballot boxes as fictitious and wrong benchmarking. “Democracy with regards to the ballot box is not about elections alone but also incorporates the ballot boxes in oil and resource matters.

Dr. Brice Parfait Kolelas, Minister of Public Service and State reforms, Republic of Congo shared in these sentiments and spoke on the need for synergy between institutions dealing with democracy, human rights and governance. “Today, we can learn a great deal from the National Commission for Social dialogue in Congo,” he stated.

H.E Olusegun Obasanjo in ending his experiences with the forum, shared the sobering story of a young rebel leader that he once met from the Niger delta. The former head of state was extremely curious on how the young man had ended up in such an unfortunate role and the young boy  responded as follows.

“Your Excellency, due to free primary education I went to primary school, I did extremely well and hence secured a place in secondary school; and I then went to university. There I pursued a career in mining engineering seeing as I come from a resource rich country. I graduated and could not get a job for 4 years, what do you expect me to do?”

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