Windhoek - The African Union is appealing to anyone with an illegal weapon to hand it over to designated national authorities this September, guaranteeing immunity from prosecution for compliance.
AU Chair of the Peace and Security Council Smail Chergui made the call while launching the Amnesty Month in the first week of September.
The call is in line with a resolution adopted
at the 29th AU Summit in 2017, which said every September until 2020 would be the “African Amnesty Month for the surrender and collection of illicit weapons". The month was chosen because the UN International Day of Peace is marked on September 21.
This feeds into the broader AU objective of “Silencing the Guns in Africa by 2020”.
In a statement, Chergui said: “I am ... appealling to everyone with an illegal weapon to hand it over to designated national authorities during this month. The AU Assembly decided that if you do so, you will not be prosecuted. By so doing, you will be contributing to the efforts to silence the guns in Africa. A peaceful, secure and prosperous Africa will result in advancing development of your countries. This is the desire of each country.”
The AU Peace and Security Council, in partnership with the Regional Centre on Small Arms (RECSA), undertook a Mapping Study on Illicit Small Arms Flows in Africa, and a significant finding was the number of civilian-held weapons across the continent, which was estimated at 40 million as of 2017.
This accounts for 80 percent of the total arms in Africa.
These weapons are in the possession of individuals, businesses and rebel troops.
Regular armed forces and law enforcement agencies, by comparison, are in possession of 11 million weapons.
Of The 40 million civilian-held weapons, about 5,8 million are officially registered, 16 million are not registered, and the status of 18 million is opaque.
Chergui said this was a "very serious threat to peace, governance and development”.
"Removing these illegal weapons from circulation and use, is, therefore, central to realising peace, security and stability in the continent. Indeed the Amnesty Month contributes to efforts towards silencing the guns in Africa,” Chergui added.