I hear the roar of women’s silence #MydressMychoice

17th November 2014, marked an important day in Nairobi, Kenya. This is a day when both women and men took to the streets to say enough was enough with the increasingly growing disrespect to women.  This event came about due to the unfortunate and unforgivable misdeeds of men who decided to strip a woman of her dignity for having dressed ‘indecently’ at Embassava, a busy street in Nairobi’s Central Business District. This situation further spiraled resulting to another woman being stripped in Mombasa town. The women’s crime you ask? ‘Indecency.’ The travesty of justice.

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To be honest, I arrived at Uhuru Park both anxious and curious about the turn out. Reason for this is that, I was afraid that Kenyans would take the route that they often did, which was being online activists without follow up on physical activism. Nonetheless, proud is what I was; the numbers kept growing with people trickling in from all corners and walks of life. The energy and the vibe were palpable. People had come out in large numbers; enough was enough this time around.

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 (Protesters at Embassava) Pic courtesy of Brian Inganga

A certain man amused me as I got there, as he muttered under his breath in a cynical tone, “So now they think they’ll get their rights.”

Dear stranger, yes we will get our rights, it may not be today, it may not be in a month’s time, but we will eventually.It’s men like you who shed light on the reality and magnitude of this problem; and the patience that requires to be exercised when trying to address deep seated social norms. Thomas Sankara rightly put it when he stated that it took the madmen of yesterday for us to be able to act with extreme clarity today, we will dare to invent the future.

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At about 10.30 a.m a man arrived in style with his loud speaker calling on his fellow men to stop behaving primitively. “Wale watu walifanya hivyo tunataka washikwe” (We want those people who did that to be arrested), he said.

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The march began a few minutes past 11, and it definitely did witness jeers from onlookers. One man arrived there with the sole purpose of hurling insults as we began. “You women are stupid,” he stated. No one seemed to pay attention to his unnecessary rants; this march and solidarity were bigger than any name calling.

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 (Activist Boniface Mwangi) 

Majority of the curious onlookers whipped out their phones to record, others just stood there smiling while others frowned, evidently upset with the peaceful protest.

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Pic courtesy of Brian Inganga

We arrived at the Embassava stage and the anger and disgust from protestors was tangible. We chanted “shame on you” at the Embassava minibuses while others wrote messages on their dirty windows. It’s important to note that by this point, the insults had grown in number and the men had begun to ask ludicrous, crass and disrespectful questions. “Mme vaa chupi? Mnatoa chupi?” (Have you worn any underwear, and are you removing them?)

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The march had been peaceful up until the moment that we were heading back from Embassava when a rowdy crowd of hired goons started running towards us as they chanted “Vaa nguo, vaa nguo!” (Wear clothes, wear clothes!) What’s ironic is that they came holding bibles to support their statements as they spat on us and yelled at us; while others attempted to grope the women. They also snatched one of the banners quite violently as people looked on at the spectacle laughing. Kenyans.

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I am of the opinion that regardless of religious affiliation, no person’s opinion should ever be imposed on another. Tolerance is key. In fact every religious text speaks on love and being a brother’s keeper. If the lady had dressed ‘indecently’ and to your disliking, isn’t it common sense to offer her a leso rather than strip her? If that does not suffice then look away.

For those who claim that this is a matter of indecency and immorality, when did women peacefully marching in the streets ever have to do with the underwear that they wore? Wake up and get off your morality seats! This is not about indecency but perverseness; a society that has allowed barbarian patriarchal norms to take centre stage.

For those who look at this situation from a view point of misguided ownership stating that this could have been your mother, sister, cousin, niece. Stop it! This is a human rights issue! No woman should ever be stripped because of what she wore. In fact from what we witnessed, it’s safe to say that this society is increasingly becoming violent and lawless. The goons marched in front and behind us tearing clothing, I guess to symbolize that they would do this all over again in a heartbeat.

This is not about indecency nor about morals; this is about sexual violence which has slowly sipped and inculcated its way in our society. This is a deep seated issue that may not be solved today but one that requires joint efforts by society. Rape has never been about what a person has worn, we have heard of an 80 year old being raped as well as a 4 year old.

Dear media houses, start being more responsible. It’s such a shame to see the skewed amount of time and attention that you give to misogynists vis-a-vis human rights activists.

I salute all the men and women who came out to say enough was enough with this barbaric behavior.  Thank you to the men who also formed a human chain around us to protect us from the hired goons who occasionally threw stones as we were outside the courts.

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Pic courtesy of Brian Inganga

“The revolution and women’s liberation go together. We do not talk of women’s emancipation as an act of charity or out of a surge of human compassion. It is a basic necessity for the revolution to triumph….. Inequality can be done away with only by establishing a new society, where men and women will enjoy equal rights, resulting from an upheaval in the means of production and in all social relations. Thus, the status of women will improve only with the elimination of the system that exploits them….Thomas Sankara

The passion of uncle Ruckus, House of Slaves, the Slave Trade

Uncle Ruckus: If you black of skin and full of sin, come forward so I may lay my hands on you.

[slaps a black man]

Uncle Ruckus: Black be gone!
[slaps black woman]

Uncle Ruckus: Praise White Jesus!
[slaps another black man]

Uncle Ruckus: Now, I want everybody to find the nearest black man and lay hands on him. But first, make sure your hand is balled up in a fist so you can beat the black outta his soul. God smiles when you hate blackness so you beat that darkie in the name of the Almighty! Hallelujah!
[the whole congregation starts beating each other. Granddad pulls Tom away from the melee]

Uncle Ruckus: That’s right! Ronald Regan said ‘Beat a blackie and go to Heaven.’ God is good! Now, let us pray. Lord, I have spent my whole life hating you for making me black. And now I see I must hate myself and all those like me. And cause them misery just like your servant, Ronald Reagan did. And if any of my words don’t come directly from the Almighty God himself, then may I be struck by lightning right this very instant! Halle-

[Ruckus is struck by lightning]

Uncle Ruckus: AAAAHHHHHHH!

(Scene from Boondocks)

Pause and Rewind.

I would like to go back in time, back to a place where being black was indeed a crime and burden, a place that knows pain and anguish, has seen both tears and immense fear, witnessed countless deaths as well as countless atrocities; a place known for the role that it played in the slave trade era; that place being Goree Island.

To be more specific, the place is Maison des esclaves, a slave house that has in fact been preserved well and looks just as it did several hundreds of years ago.

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As I set foot into the building, I couldn’t help but try and fathom what was going through the minds of women, children and men as they stepped into the house back then. Some fighting to avoid getting in despite the heavy shackles on their feet; others silent from the acceptance of their impending doom; others being unable to look their children in the eye, while others breaking down from the sight of them. Honestly, I couldn’t fathom it, and just those thoughts in themselves made my chest tense up.

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Below is a picture showing the manner in which the slaves were ferried across; stacked as if lifeless objects or what you would of marbles in a bowl.

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Below is the children’s room which is about 8 square foot in size and that held 30 in number. Children were separated from their parents and were left to relieve themselves within the same space; this is the same place in which they were fed.

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Below is one of the windows in the room, one can see that the opening narrows outward to avoid the children from escaping.

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Below is where the rogue prisoners were kept. A small space underneath the stairs that led to the colonial master’s quarters above. The prisoners were stacked there whether dead or alive. One can only imagine the trauma and disease.

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A sobering fact to note is that the colonial masters held parties and hosted dinners in the top quarters while the slaves were at the bottom barely a few metres away.

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Quite the sobering and heart wrenching visit.

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The slave trade era dates back hundreds of years yet whose reverberations still ring true today. This is what I wish to write on today. Mental slavery as witnessed through uncle Ruckus above and many of us through our day to day activities.

On various platforms today, be it political, social or economic, Africa is still yet to rid itself of its shackles.

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(Art piece by Goree Island resident)

For starters, when did it become okay for us to export majority of our agricultural produce when our citizens still die from hunger?

The recently convened African Union second high level private sector and agribusiness meeting saw discussions surrounding this topic. A participant rightly put it when he stated that Africa has lagged behind in emancipating itself from slavery giving the example of Nigeria which imports tea from England when it could do so from Kenya. This statement is not only true for the West African state, but one that sheds light on the entire continent. Today intra African trade stands at barely 12%.

Moving on, when was it ever okay to require 33 visas to travel around Africa? In fact to connect between some countries in Africa, one needs to leave the continent only to fly back in.

When did headlines such as these ever become acceptable especially in the year 2014?

“14 African Countries Forced by France to Pay Colonial Tax for the Benefits of Slavery and Colonization”

The article continues as follows… “14 African countries are obliged by France, trough a colonial pact, to put 85% of their foreign reserve into France central bank under French minister of Finance control. Until now, 2014, Togo and about 13 other African countries still have to pay colonial debt to France.” To read the full article kindly do so here.

Where did we go wrong?

“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds,” Bob Marley stated.

Indeed there is no temptation so insidious as the one of pointing fingers when it comes to slavery today. No one is to blame but us. Uncle Ruckus rants are our own doing.

When will we begin to take pan africanism and the African renaissance seriously?

“Besides, political independence, though worthwhile in itself, is still only a means to the fuller redemption and realization of a people. When independence has been gained, positive action requires a new orientation away from the sheer destruction of colonialism and towards national reconstruction. It is indeed in this address to national reconstruction that positive action faces its gravest dangers. The cajolement, the wheedling, the seductions and the Trojan horses of neocolonialism must be stoutly resisted, for neocolonialism is a latter-day harpy, a monster which entices its victims with sweet music. In order to be able to carry out this resistance to neo-colonialism at every point, positive action requires to be armed with an ideology, an ideology which, vitalizing it, and operating through a mass party with a regenerative concept of the world and life, forge for it a strong continuing link with our past and offer to it an assured bond with our future. Under the searchlight of an ideology, every fact affecting the life of a people can be assessed and judged, and neo-colonialism’s detrimental aspirations and sleights of hand will constantly stand. In order that this ideology should be comprehensive, in order that it should light up every aspect of the life of our people, in order that it should affect the total interest of our society, establishing a continuity with our past, it must be socialist in form and in content and be embraced by a mass party.” Kwame Nkurumah

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(Friends at the door of no return)

Of art, sports, serenades and youth empowerment #Senegal

Beautiful does not begin to describe Dakar, Senegal’s capital city.  I feel like the word beautiful actually does it some injustice; perhaps magnificently beautiful is more befitting. When the flight captain went on to tell us that we were 10 minutes away from descending into Leopold Sedar Senghor airport, I let out a not so quiet shrill “I know!” Excitement had clearly overtaken me. The view of the waves, the peninsula, the swaying palm trees and the clean coastline were all breathtaking to say the least.

After an 11 hour flight transiting through Benin and Mali, we had finally arrived in Dakar.

Reason for being in this magnificent city was the Third High level dialogue on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance that was being convened by the Africa Governance Architecture platform within the Department of Political Affairs of the African Union Commission.

Fast forward to when we were leaving the airport; some of us, me included, began to comment on the beauty of the Senegalese, not to mention their lean body sizes. “Hmmm… interesting,” I thought to myself.

As we drove into the city, I couldn’t help but notice and feel the vibe of the place. The place is bustling and yet despite the high temperatures in the late afternoon, several people were jogging by the road, others trading in the market squares and others seemingly enjoying after work catch up conversations.

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The most astounding thing crossed my field of vision; young children were wrestling in a sandy pitch alongside the road, with several others cheering on in excitement. I am not quite sure on why this struck me, but allow me to carry on.

The children’s smiles and laughter are still so vivid and next to them was a football pitch with what looked like slightly older boys playing. It’s safe to say that all were deeply engrossed in their games oblivious to their surroundings.

Continuing with the bus ride to our destinations, it dawned on me that we had past neither 2 nor 3 football/wrestling pitches but an estimated 7. “Phenomenal,” I thought to myself. The Senegalese government had made a conscious effort to allocate spaces for sports activities.

To be honest, I couldn’t keep track of the number of runners that we had passed. Some were in groups, others by themselves. Across the city, they could easily have been in the hundreds. “Goodness, does everyone run here?” asked one of my colleagues. Her question had indeed confirmed my train of thought.                           IMAG5376_1

Allow me to fast forward again to my first morning in Dakar. This is the view that I had. Beautiful isn’t it?

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But another thing aside from this had struck me; I could see dozens of people in the ocean doing some sort of exercise.

“This people really do like to work out,” I thought to myself again and brushed off.

At the end of the two day meeting, colleagues and I decided to enjoy a good meal out in the town, it being a Friday night and all. I am in fact grateful to one of them for insisting that we do so by the beach. We had somewhat accustomed to the place and it was no surprise seeing some people running by the beach while others lifting weights at 9 pm in the night.

Having enjoyed our beautifully cooked meal and being burnt out from fatigue, I left my colleagues to catch a good night cap.

What happened after is what I’d like to call the true meaning of missing out. My colleague and good friend Nerima narrated to me on how they had been serenaded as they took a stroll by the beach. Her narration is as follows.

“So this guy snuck up on us and started beating his drum which of course startled us, I think I actually jumped. At first I was thinking…hmm what is this? Then it started to dawn on us on what he was doing and we started clapping and supporting him. It made me smile, I was so happy.”

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Be it in Goree island, which is known for its rich history dating back to the slave trade era; or the very streets of Dakar; one is bound to see both the young and the old carrying their Koras (traditional string instruments) around with them or strumming away either in solitude or to an indulged crowd.

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(A young man playing his kora by the pier in Goree Island)

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(A young man crossing a street in Dakar, holding in hand his Kora)

As we drove to the port to catch a ferry to Goree Island, once again, one could not help but notice all the high quality sports amenities that had been set up along the coastline. Be it basketball courts, hockey pitches or soccer pitches. It was remarkable.

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(The basketball courts)

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(Children’s play area)

This then begs the question; is it any wonder that Senegal is one of the most stable countries in Africa?

The AU high level dialogue that had been convened was a forum whose aim was to escalate actions being taken to silence the guns that are ravaging and hampering progress on our continent. These are wars whose main perpetrators and victims are the youth. I can’t think of a better place to illustrate the magnitude of what good investments in young people’s energy and passion can do. Whether jobless or otherwise, there is something about sports that allows one, especially the young, to release frustrations, be good managers of their time, build a culture of teamwork as well as be peaceful ambassadors.

From the young man who serenaded my colleagues on the beach due to the freedom of expression, or the freedom to just authentically be; to the young boys wrestling in the sandy pitches, it is evident that all have been brought together by a cultural thread of oneness be it in sport or art. This underscores the importance of creating a positive identity among ones people. The Senegalese know not which ethnic tribe they are playing a sport with nor serenading to. All they know is that they do enjoy doing this with their friends in a healthy manner. This reminds me so much of the Ubuntu philosophy which states that I am because we are. Let us all try and emulate the noble example that is  Senegal.

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(Dakar sunrise)

Video series: Experiences and Lessons from the field on Silencing the Guns in Africa: Strengthening Democratic Governance

What are experiences and lessons if they do not evoke an emotion out of you to do better?

This session was moderated by the eloquent, graceful and beautiful Ms. Belinda Moses, Co-founder and COO, San Media.

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In beginning this discussion, Ms. Moses raised the pertinent aspect of embracing media to showcase, complement and enhance the discussions being held.The video below depicts the atrocities of war and undoubtedly does have some graphic images but all the more reason to watch it to the end.

Prof. Ndioro Ndiaye, former minister for Women and Children, Republic of Senegal, a panelist in the session reiterated the need for promotion of good governance from the ground up and not in the reverse. Her point of view was expounded further by Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Former Executive Governor of Ekiti State, Nigeria, who emphasized the need for creating social safety nets for young people to implement the same. “We must turn around corrupt and unaccountable governments in Africa by strengthening democratic governance institutions,” he stated.

“We have a diverse youth in Africa and unfortunately there is a segment of the youth becoming poorer, we need to cater to them,” reiterated his counterpart H.E Mme Maya Sahli, Fadel Commissioner, African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights.

Dr. Vasu Gounden, Executive Director ACCORD took us down memory lane as he recollected the sobering misdeeds that were undertaken in 1994 when South Africa avoided a massive blood bath. This is when the right wing movement attempted to curtail all progress made on democracy. This included 50,000 armed men who had been thoroughly trained to kill and destroy during the country’s first elections. How the country was able to surmount this challenge is a miracle. Kindly watch below:

Dr. Gounden informed the audience of the consequences brought about by profound socio-economic inequality. Today, South Africa has one of the highest numbers of social protest and it comes as no surprise. “We need to close the gap in development and education. When people enter politics because they have no other alternative to close their own personal gaps, then we are in trouble,” he stated.

Ibraheem Sanusi  rightly put it when he stated that we should strive to not only want a continent not at war, but one that respects and upholds human rights and builds peace together.

Here’s a video that sums it up. #DGTrends

Scene-setting: “Silencing the Guns by 2020” What is at stake?

For those who were old enough then, remember the period between 1970 to 1990? When single parties were the talk of day, military coups and attempted military coups the order of the day?

Fast forward to the ‘90s; competitive politics came into play and countries far and wide within the African continent celebrated multiparty elections; thus true democracy was born.

Today however, we still grapple with challenges in democracy, good governance and human rights. A good number of countries are experiencing impunity, violent conflict, corruption,  rigged elections, lack of participatory and inclusive development and violation of human rights especially of women and youth but to name a few.

So how then does the African state intend to silence the guns in 5 years knowing full well the challenges being faced? What really is at stake here?

H.E Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the Africa Union Commission has consistently emphasized the role of democratic governance in doing so. She has often times spoken on the fact that stable peace and national prosperity can only be achieved when the institutions and systems in place are representative of all groups in a given society. “Efforts must include fostering democratic governance, social cohesion and harmony as encapsulated in the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, among other AU normative frameworks. Only through democratic governance and durable solutions can durable peace and sustainable human development be achieved.”

She continues by informing that to surmount the aspirational and inspirational milestone of silencing the guns within the framework of AU Agenda 2063, we would require translating AU resolutions into solutions through concrete policy interventions at member state level. In achieving this, we would need to focus on addressing the structural causes of conflict on our continent which are rooted in both governance deficits and development malaise.

Prof. Gilbert Khadiagala, Head of International Relations Department, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa, raised the poignant aspect of silenced the guns being feasible not only in five years, but today. “When heads of state decide to lead from a conscientious point of view, wars in Africa will be nothing but history,” he stated. This is only possible where leaders decide to silence their own guns and not turn them on the societies that they lead. “To end wars we just have to be honest about what we are doing wrong,” the Prof. informed.

“As a continent we need to harness the inspirational element of doing things, we must dissuade ourselves from engaging in pessimistic tenets of life. We have managed to build a culture of competitive politics in 25 years, in that same spirit we can strengthen institutions of participation, accountability and transparency,” he stated.

“Some say it is impossible, but take a look at Costa Rica, they are a well functioning and successful country without having a military. No one ever thought this would be possible, but it has been done.”

The fundamental aspect of all this is that we cannot achieve our goals without including the youth. Today and in the the year 2020, they will be the leaders, in 2063, they will be the ones passing the baton to the next generation. Incorporation of the future in the present cannot be underscored. Youth have to be at the genesis of the problem solving process in the continent.

Dr. Mustapha Mekideche, member of the APR Panel of Eminent Persons informed the group that growth without inclusive development would consistently pose an imminent threat to the progress of Africa. He informed the audience of the need to foresee the objectives of the Africa Peer Review Mechanism being met; that includes fostering the adoption of policies, standards and practices that lead to political stability, high economic growth, sustainable development and accelerated sub-regional and continental economic integration through experience sharing and reinforcement of successful and best practices. This includes addressing deficiencies and assessment of requirements for capacity building. Evidently, the peer review mechanism goes a long way in addressing political, social and economic governance however in respect state sovereignty, membership of the same is on a voluntary basis. This has led to the unfortunate challenge of some states avoiding to commit to the objectives of the institutions or even to adhere to the recommendations given.

“The APRM reflects African values, who is afraid of these values?” Prof. Khadiagala asked.

I urge you to gain a better understanding of it to keep abreast and hold your governments accountable.  Public participation could not be emphasized at a more befitting time. For more information kindly visit here

We cannot afford to wait for external or regional pressure to get the systems in place working. Let us make a conscientious effort to enhance developmental governance; the success of this continent is ours for the taking,

Final Outcome statement: Third High Level Dialogue on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance in Africa #DGTrends

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3rd ANNUAL HIGH LEVEL DIALOGUE ON DEMOCRACY,

HUMAN RIGHTS AND GOVERNANCE IN AFRICA:

TRENDS, CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS

 

DAKAR, SENEGAL

30 – 31 OCTOBER 2014

OUTCOME STATEMENT

DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL AFFAIRS, AFRICAN UNION COMMISSION

INTRODUCTION

 

  1. The 3rd Annual High Level Dialogue on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance in Africa: Trends, Challenges, Prospects and Opportunities was held in Dakar, Senegal, on 30 to 31 October, 2014. The theme of the Dialogue was “Silencing the Guns – Strengthening Governance to Prevent, Manage and Resolve Conflicts in Africa.” It was attended by representatives from African Union (AU) Member States (Permanent Representatives Committee), African Governance Architecture Platform Members (AU Organs, Institutions and Regional Economic Communities (RECs), United Nations Agencies, Development Partners, Think Tanks, Civil Society, including women groups and youth organisations, Eminent African Personalities and Academia.
  1. The 50th Solemn Declaration committed Africa leaders to ending wars and violent conflicts by 2020. The overall objective of the Dialogue was to explore strategies for ending violent conflicts in Africa, and to propose policy recommendations for implementation at both African Union and Member States levels. The Dialogue reiterated the need for articulating perspectives and strategies for silencing Guns by 2020 through strengthening democratic governance as articulated in the 50th Anniversary Solemn Declaration.
  1. This ‘Outcome Statement’ is a summary of the key issues and recommendations made at the High Level Dialogue towards “Silencing the Guns” in Africa by 2020.

KEY ISSUES

  1. Since independence, African states have made remarkable progress to build sturdy institutions of statehood and nationhood for managing diversity, encouraging participation, promoting equitable development, and encouraging regional integration. Furthermore, Africa has made profound strides to establish systems of democratic governance that have broadened competitive politics, improved democratic leadership changes, invigorated and enthused civic action, and resuscitated economies for growth and development.
  1. Yet some parts of Africa remain saddled by violent conflicts and instabilities that are linked to competition over power and resources and the mismanagement of diversity. Conflicts in Africa are driven by governance and development deficits that reflect the challenges faced by institutions and mechanisms that seek to address the strains and pressures of pluralism and poverty. Widespread state fragility and national fragmentation combined with socioeconomic inequities continue to fuel violence and social discontent in many African countries. Democratization in the face of ethnic, sectarian, and religious fissures has exacerbated conflicts that have further strained efforts aimed at building effective, legitimate, and representative states.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. The High Level Dialogue reiterated the fact that ending wars and silencing the guns should be a collective responsibility of African citizens, AU Member States, the African Union, Regional Economic Communities, Civil Society Organizations, the Private Sector, Faith-Based Organizations, the Academia, and the international community. Participants noted, with a sense of optimism that AU Shared Values instruments, including the Constitutive Act of the African Union, African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, the ProtocolRelating to the Establishment of the Peace. and Security Council of the African Union, the African Peer Review Mechanism and the Conference on Security, Stability, Development and Cooperation in Africa all aim to strengthen democratic and participatory governance as well as peace and security in Africa. Democratic and participatory governance is both a pre-condition and outcome of durable peace, inclusive, equitable and people-centred development.

Re-Invigorating the Spirit of Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance

  1. Transformational regional integration requires that the processes of establishing inclusive and sustainable development are anchored on effective, efficient and accountable governance. Such democratic developmental governance dictates that African citizens are enabled to become drivers and owners of their own development and not just recipients of development projects and programmes without their effective participation. The AU Agenda 2063 and the Common African Position on the post-2015 development Agenda calls on African leaders and citizens to embrace the spirit of Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance anchored on both people-to-people as well as institutional integration.
  1. The operationalization of Agenda 2063 requires specific programmes and actions at national, regional and continental levels. The aim is to deepen a shared African identity, unity, integration, solidarity, self-confidence, collective self-reliance and self-respect all of which are integral parts of ending violent conflict on the continent. AU, RECs, Member States and the global pan-African community have to make a concerted effort to revive the Pan-Africanist Movement and support the convening of the 8th Pan-African Congress in Accra, Ghana in 2015.
  1. The solidarity and unity of all Africans and Afro-descendants is critical to the achievement of the Agenda 2063. To ensure sustainable implementation of agenda 2063, Africa’s wealth and the resources it generates domestically should be deliberately applied through agreed mechanisms to finance and sustain the operationalization of Agenda 2063 and the common Africa position on post-2015 development agenda.

From Norm-Setting to Norm Implementation

  1. The AU and RECs already have an expansive and robust set of normative frameworks for promoting democratic and participatory governance for peace and development. However, a huge gap exists between norm-setting and implementation of agreed norms and policies at national level. In some instances, AU Member States have limited human, material and financial resources to effectively domesticate and implement agreed continental policies and standards. This gap needs to be addressed by the AU, RECs and Member States as a matter of urgency. As a first step the Conference called for the establishment of time-bound implementation frameworks that have dedicated budgets as well as systems, competencies and capacities for monitoring, evaluation, reporting and follow up.
  1. The conference called upon all AU Member States to ratify, domesticate and implement key AU Shared Values Instruments by the year 2020. They called upon the African Union Commission to ensure synergy and harmonization of the internal coordination, resourcing, capacity development and evaluation systems.
  1. In particular, the Conference recommended stronger synergy and complementarity between the African Governance Architecture (AGA) and the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA). It was recommended that a joint working group of the AU Permanent Representative Committee, Peace and Security Council and AU Commission should be established and tasked with ensuring that APSA and AGA structures, processes and work plans are harmonized before the next High Level Dialogue in 2015.

Investing in Conflict Prevention, Early Warning and Early Recovery

  1. The Conference noted that the AU, RECs and Member States have various forms of early warning and disaster response systems that operate with varying degrees of efficiency and effectiveness. It called for increased investment of time, energy and resources in preventive diplomacy, strengthening early warning and early recovery of conflict-affected countries.
  1. This requires robust systems of detection of crisis signals, preventive diplomatic entry in volatile situations and candid analysis and reporting of conflict situations. Where such systems already exists, Member States, AU Organs and Institutions, Regional Economic Communities as well as civil society and the international community should share real and timely intelligence and pool the requisite resources and expertise for timely preventive responses before the eruption of full blown conflict as is the situation in Burkina Faso.

Building Capable, Effective and Legitimate States

  1. The African State is central to developmental democratic governance, policy formulation and implementation, post-conflict recovery, building national cohesion, guaranteeing human and State security, decentralization and local economic development, enforcement of human rights and the social contract.
  1. The conference called for redoubling of efforts to build institutional and administrative capacity of the African States. Capable, responsive, accountable and democratic States engender a culture of values and performance-based leadership and institutions. Such States have the requisite legitimacy and authority which leaves little room for social upheavals and rebellion born out of discontent, marginalization and exclusion. Effective state capacity is crucial for efficient service delivery and the fight against impunity, corruption and abuse of public office. State capacity is crucial for regulating illicit financial and capital outflows that are driven by vested internal and external interests and actors.
  1. Capable democratic developmental African states stand a greater chance to silence the guns. The Conference called for capacity needs assessment in African countries that may require technical support especially those emerging from conflict. The AU, RECs and Member States through the existing governance, peace and security architectures should improve coordination and share comparable practices, lessons as well as human and financial resources to countries that require rebuilding and re-establishment of norms and institutions of democratic governance, peace and security.

Constructive Management of Diversity

  1. The Conference called upon AU, RECs and Member States to harness African socio-cultural and intergenerational diversity for sustainable development anchored on the spirit of Pan Africanism and African Renaissance. Africa’s diversity should not be a curse, it should impel the continent towards greater unification and organic integration. Constructive management of diversity, including through: youth engagement and empowerment, specific language policies; proportional representation in electoral systems; political tolerance; local economic development, decentralization of power and resources as well as federal systems of governance should be strengthened by AU Member States as a tools of diversity management.
  1. The African Union in partnership with African CSOs, youth and women formations, the Academia, and Media should create communities of practice for African countries to share lessons learnt, innovations and effective practices as a way of entrenching a culture of constructive management of diversity on the continent.

Preventing Electoral Violence

  1. The conference noted that some elections in Africa have promoted democratization and peace-building. However, others have reversed the development and democratic gains made in the recent past and ignited bloodshed. Some aspects of electoral violence have resulted from electoral cycle factors such as inefficient management of elections, while others have structural root causes deeply hidden within socio-economic malaise such as unemployment, poverty and inequality.
  1. The Conference recommended that in addressing and redressing electoral violence, AU, RECs and Member States should deal with both the electoral cycle related and structural causal factors so that policy responses go beyond mere symptoms of the problem. Member States, AU, RECs and civil society should thus make greater investment in long term pre-election assessments that integrate mediation, preventive diplomacy and effective management of potential electoral processes disputes.
  1. The Conference noted a growing tendency to pressure countries emerging out of serious crises and conflicts into immediately holding elections as an ill-conceived policy option. African countries emerging from violent conflict should consider seriously the timing of post-conflict elections to ensure that they are premised upon solid foundations of peace, stability and political legitimacy. There is need to ensure that elections held soon after episodes of violent conflict or social upheaval have no potential of plunging countries back into cycle of political violence.

Demilitarising Politics

  1. After decades of limited or absent coup d’etats, Africa has witnessed a resurgence of militarization of politics as an undemocratic phenomenon. The conference reiterated that demilitarization of politics is a crucial step in silencing the guns. It called for an end to the politicization of the security establishment and securitization of politics characterized by the politicization of formal security agencies or instances where political elites establish and control militias that work parallel to formal security agencies. In order to reverse this trend, the conference called upon African countries to recommit to professional security establishments accountable to civilian authority through parliament.
  1. Formal security agencies should not compete for space with informal militias. African states should invest more resources in managing, regulating and controlling private security companies, which operate in national settings and across borders. The conference called upon the African Union Commission to propose a code of standards and practice for private security companies that operate at a regional level or in multi-country settings as well as mechanisms for ensuring their regional/continental accountability by December 2015.

Expanding the Frontiers of Human and Peoples’ Rights

  1. In silencing the guns, Africa needs to do much more in the area of expanding the frontiers of a human rights culture. Human rights, especially the rights of women and girls must be protected and promoted. It is largely deficiencies in embracing a culture of human rights that has led to some of the tragic cases of mass atrocities and genocide in Africa.
  1. Silencing guns in Africa entails committing to eradicating conditions that lead to international crimes, such as genocide and impunity, among others. African transitional justice mechanism should be embedded in the continent’s human rights architecture. This is where Africa-specific methodologies and culturally embedded strategies for transitional justice and conflict transformation, such as the Gacaca courts in Rwanda, the Ubuntu system in South Africa and Mot Oput in Northern Uganda become extremely useful and these should be strengthened and reinforced.
  1. In support of the declaration by the African Union that 2015 is the Year for Women’s Empowerment in the Context of Agenda 2063 and 2016 as the Year for Human Rights, with special reference to the Rights of Women, the conference called for the theme of the 2015 High Level Dialogue to focus on women empowerment and leadership.

Managing Africa’s Natural Resources for Sustainable Development

  1. Africa has normative frameworks at the Continental, RECs and national levels to govern the extractive sectors and natural resources generally. The intricate linkage between security and natural resource rent abuse or usage is a key factor to silencing the guns. The conference reiterated that Africa requires optimum and transparent extraction and beneficiation of its resources in order to sustainably combat insecurity and achieve sustainable development and peace.
  1. It noted that the mismanagement of Africa’s natural resources has resulted in massive corruption that has left the African economy bleeding as clearly demonstrated by the Thabo Mbeki Panel Report and the Kofi Anan Africa Progress Report on illicit resource outflows and exploitation of Africa’s natural resources respectively. The conference noted that a growing number of Africa’s violent conflicts are over distribution of rents and benefits from these natural resources. Resource based conflicts often find virulent expression in religious and ethnic sectarianism and radicalisation.
  1. The AU, RECs and Member States have to ensure effective governance, distribution and redistribution of Africa’s natural resources to address issues of corruption as well as illicit financial and capital outflows as envisaged by the African Mining Vision.

Addressing the Special Circumstances of Marginalized Social Groups

  1. African nation-States are constituted by heterogeneous nation groups that sometimes are bounded by spatial, economic, social and political inequalities. These inequalities and class differences are often exacerbated by uneven development within regions in the same nation States. In their efforts to silence the guns, AU, RECs and Member States will need to address the specific circumstances and situations of marginalized social groups including women, children, young people, minorities and people with disabilities.
  1. It is imperative that women and youth empowerment constitute part of the broader package for silencing guns. Interest of children, minorities and people with disabilities need to be taken into account during conflict situations, during processes of peace-building and development process in peace time. The consolidation and effective implementation of various national and continental women and youth engagement strategies by Member States, the African Union, RECs, and civil society formations is a critical component of efforts geared towards silencing the guns by 2020.
  1. The conference recommended that existing continental benchmarks and frameworks on empowerment of vulnerable and marginalized social groups should be made an integral part of AU democratic governance, peace building and conflict transformation processes. In order for this to be sustained, tools and mechanisms for mainstreaming the existing normative expectations should be developed and AU Mediators should be sensitized on how to use the same.

Addressing Forced Displacement Due to Violent Conflicts

  1. The Conference noted that the disproportionate impact of violent conflicts on the continent includes the massive forced displacement of communities leading to millions of internally displaced people, refugees, stateless people or irregular migrants. In most conflict zones such as the Horn, the Sahel, the Great Lakes regions and parts of North Africa especially Libya forced migration accounts for over 10 million refugees and equally high numbers of internally displaced persons. Data sources indicate that 43 000 young Africans have died since the year 2000 trying to cross the high seas to seek perceived better opportunities in Europe. While some of these are economic migrants, others are political refugees fleeing violence in their countries.
  1. The conference called upon the AU, RECs and Member States to find durable solutions to forced displacement in Africa due to wars and violent conflicts by strengthening early warning and response systems. But once wars erupt, remedial measures are needed to mitigate their adverse impact on civilian populations.
  1. The AU, RECs, Member States and international community should work closely to establish locally owned and led support systems for the affected communities and States. The AU, RECs and Member States need to work closely together on the Common African Position on Humanitarian Situation in Africa in readiness for the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey in June 2016.

Promoting Reconciliation, Social Healing and National Harmony

  1. The Conference noted that national and local systems and cultures of peace are linked to governance mechanisms and processes designed to guarantee justice, freedom and human rights. A key foundation to achieving national cohesion is national reconciliation and recovery processes. In pursuance of the Decision Assembly/AU/Dec.501 (XXII) declaring 2014-2024 as the Madiba Nelson Mandela Decade of Reconciliation in Africa, the AU, RECs and Member States should invest a lot more in efforts aimed at reconciliation and social harmony with a view to facilitating successful nation-building in Africa.
  1. In countries emerging from violent conflicts, a good mixture of social healing, justice and accountability mechanisms is required for sustainable peace and democracy building. The conference called upon AU, RECs and Member States to adopt and implement the AU Transitional Justice framework as a means to addressing issues of impunity, national reconciliation and recovery anchored upon the principles of justice, peace, and reconciliation as encapsulated in the AU Shared Values instruments.

Promoting equitable, inclusive and participatory socio-economic development

  1. Democratic and participatory governance and peace and security are key pre-conditions for sustainable human development, which is people-centered. Most of violent conflicts in Africa have their root causes in both development failure and governance deficits. In order to address the structural root causes of violent conflict, socio-economic challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality should be addressed effectively. The conference reiterated the need to ensure that economic policy is rationalized with social policy and adequate investment in the productive capacities of African States and peoples. In particular, the conference called for economic and social policies that evolve out of participatory processes and advance a culture of democracy and peace.
  1. The conference reaffirmed the imperative of greater engagement and participation of African citizens in state and continental affairs especially policy making and implementation towards silencing the guns. The conference commended the AU for improving its social media engagement strategy with African citizens and called for revamping and strengthening of the continental platform for engaging civil society and citizens – the Economic Social and Cultural Council – and the use of traditional media and other participatory processes such as people to people dialogues, information sharing and feedback with Member States in order to ensure continental and national policies are owned and driven by beneficiaries.

Promoting Knowledge Generation, Policy Analysis and Dissemination

  1. The AU, RECs and Member States should engage, partner and cooperate more with African think tanks, universities, research institutes and the media in generating and disseminating evidenced based knowledge, research and policy analysis on strengthening democratic governance, addressing violent conflicts with a view to sharpening their policy responses and interventions aimed at silencing guns on the continent.

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