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Each time the subject of ‘silencing the guns’ is brought up, I am reminded of the late Human Rights Advocate, Musa Hlophe.

He wrote, in his capacity as a resident columnist of the Times of Eswatini SUNDAY newspaper, countless articles on this subject as though he sensed that the country could be headed for troubled waters. Not much attention was given to what Hlophe was saying then, maybe because no one thought it possible that emaSwati would engage in a process of killing each other in furtherance of a political agenda. Most of us thought our political differences could be settled without the need to kill each other through the barrel of a gun.

His Majesty the King, in both his Speech from the Throne and during the National Prayer Service at Lozitha Palace, highlighted the need for silencing of the gun. “Over the past few years, the world has been faced with increased agitation that has manifested itself through repetitive waves of instability and other forms of disruption. The SADC region has been no exception to this.

‘‘We encourage the African populace to join hands in working towards realising one of the African union agenda 2063 initiatives, in silencing the guns by 2030, which aspires to end all wars and violent conflict on the continent. The success of this goal will go a long way towards ensuring that the people of Africa focus their attention on socio-economic development issues in a free and safe environment,” the King said.


He called upon emaSwati to see the need to co-exist despite their different ways of looking at the development and social landscape. “Each and every liswati should be guided by the principles of the Holy Book; ‘Thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these’,” said the King. In pursuance of this co-existence, there is need for emaSwati to understand, familiarise or remind themselves to understand what this ‘silencing the guns’ is all about.

It all began in 2013 when the African Union (AU) member state representatives gathered at its headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where the Organisation of African Unity was established in 1963, to celebrate the body’s 50th anniversary. As they celebrated, the leaders sat down to reflect and tackle these tough questions: “What progress have we made towards the achieving of the objectives set by the AU and looking forward, what is our proposed vision for Africa for the next 50 years? Furthermore, what is the biggest challenge to realising the aspirations of our people?”

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, then African Union Commission Chairperson, had visited various countries collecting views from governments, civil society and the diaspora, on what they felt was the most pressing issue facing Africa, one the AU should deal with. Most agreed that conflict remains one of the biggest challenges facing Africa. This was alongside the fact that the AU also sees conflict as one of the main obstacles to the realisation of Agenda 2063.


This is on top of other challenges facing the continent, including poverty, inequality, unemployment, climate change, illegal financial flows, corruption, etc, yet conflict tops the list. Aïssatou Hayatou, the AU ‘Silencing the Guns’ Operations Manager, speaking to Africa Renewal magazine, said: “Before leaving Addis Ababa, the AU leaders resolved not to pass the burden of conflict to future generations, so they adopted ‘Silencing the Guns in Africa by 2020’ as one of the flagship projects of the wider developmental blueprint Agenda 2063. The objective was to achieve peace to allow for development across Africa.”

The intention of this initiative is to achieve a conflict-free Africa, prevent genocide, make peace a reality for all and rid the continent of wars, violent conflicts, human rights violations, and humanitarian disasters. The leaders had hoped to have all the guns silenced by 2020. Despite the initiative and roadmaps that have been produced by the AU to realise this goal, conflicts have persisted, resulting in the ‘Silencing the Guns’ agenda being extended to 2030, in the hope that by then Africa would have cured itself of the plague of conflict. Reports of the AU indicate that there has been silencing of the guns in countries that were previously regarded as hotspots, such as Angola, Ivory Coast, Liberia and Sierra Leone.  


Noteworthy progress was also noted in difficult cases such as Somalia and Sudan, according to the Addis Ababa-based Institute for Security Studies (ISS), and peace-building initiatives on the continent have also helped quell many potential flare-ups. However, fighting was still observable in Libya, South Sudan, the Central African Republic (CAR), the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Lake Chad Basin, which includes Chad and parts of Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon.

Violent extremism in the Sahel and parts of the Horn and eastern Africa has also been a challenge. The southern Africa region has experienced a similar situation in that attacks in Mozambique’s northern region of Cabo Delgado prompted military intervention by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and Rwanda. The conflict in Cabo Delgado has been taking place for a number of years, where both locals and foreign nationals have been killed, and such deaths have been claimed by the Islamic State.

The responses to the conflict in Cabo Delgado first saw the deployment of Rwandan troops to the region, which was followed by troops from SADC’s mission to Mozambique.Katharine Bebington, who is a Programme Officer, and  Halima Ahmed, who is a Research Fellow, at the African Centre for Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD), co-wrote that while the silencing the guns agenda stalled in its initial task of producing a conflict-free Africa by 2020, it does indicate a clear focus of the continent on ridding itself of conflict. 

When the agenda was launched in 2013, they wrote, it was not clear why 2020 was chosen as the year by which all conflicts should end, nor was it clear that a conflict-free Africa by 2020 was feasible.  “The same can be said of the selection of the year 2030 as the new target for silencing the guns.  If the AU and the continent hopes to see the silencing of the guns come to fruition then it requires more than just political will on the part of the AU. 


The AU and its member States need to work together at the local level, to prevent communal conflicts, at the national level and at the international level to stop the flow of arms and trans-national conflicts in Africa.  However, the agenda does still indicate that the AU is well aware of the issue of conflicts on the continent and that it is prepared to put in the requisite effort to produce a conflict-free Africa,” they said.

Gilbert M Khadiagala from the International Peace Institute (IPI) - an independent, international not-for-profit think tank dedicated to managing risk and building resilience to promote peace, security, and sustainable development – said silencing the guns and promoting good governance is the responsibility of governments and states that prioritise people’s participation in political and economic processes, promote sound and equitable livelihoods, and reduce violence at all levels of society.

It was encouraging to learn that Eswatini’s Members of Parliament have called upon government to engage in a community outreach (vusela) exercise to find out the issues that are troubling emaSwati. Madlangempisi MP Sibusiso ‘Scorpion’ Nxumalo encouraged government to go to the people to hear their concerns ahead of the proposed national dialogue. He said such would help to understand what really needed to be addressed during the dialogue. This is the way to go! That’s how the process of silencing of the guns can be initiated and the end goal achieved.


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