The African Union Commission Heads of States Assembly has marked the year 2020 with the theme “Silencing the Gun: creating conducive conditions for Africa’s development”. In line with this theme, Agenda 2063 stresses the imperative of ending all wars, civil conflicts, gender-based violence and violent conflicts and prevention of genocide in its ten-year implementation plan. Speaking to this endeavor, the 33rdAU Summit aims to take stock of achievements and challenges encountered in implementing the AU’s Flagship project ‘Silencing the Gun by 2020’ and devise a more robust action plan informed by the Monitoring and Evaluation Mechanism of the road map for a peaceful and prosperous Africa.
Women’s International Peace Centre, as a member of the GIMAC steering committee, co-organised the 35th GIMAC meeting held from 3rd to 4th February 2020 in Addis Ababa, under the theme “Recognizing and Amplifying Women and Girls’ Agency to Silence the Guns in Africa”.
“The role of young women in silencing the guns is to make decisions, raise awareness on the peace processes because we suffer longer from the impact of conflict”- Racheal Juan, Project Assistant, South Sudan.
The Peace Centre’s alumni and partners including a young woman from South Sudan’s informal Young Women Leading for Peace network and from DRC’s Karibu Jeunesse Nouvelle who as panellists made statements and concrete recommendations for the AUC Silencing the Guns roadmap. They called on Member States and the AU to ensure the meaningful inclusion of women, including young women, grassroots women and women war survivors, in nation-building, the design and implementation of peace agreements, responses to violent conflict, and post-conflict governance.
Their recommendations were included in the final 35 GIMAC outcome document as follows; “We urge the African Union Heads of State and Governments to: To adopt and adequately finance UNSCR 1325 national and regional action plans and endorse the Continental Result Framework developed by the AU Office of the Special Envoy on WPS towards effective implementation, monitoring, evaluation & reporting of the WPS Agenda as well as the involvement of women and youth in nurturing a culture of peace, tolerance and constructive resolution of disputes”.
“We need to push member states to prioritize the protection of women and end all acts of SGBV against women”- Arek Malek Young Women Leading for Peace network, South Sudan
The University of Wisconsin – Madison in partnership with African researchers, Isis Women’s International Cross Cultural Exchange (Isis-WICCE) and Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI) are conducting a research project that looks at the cost of women’s exclusion and the possibilities for their inclusion in peace processes, peacebuilding, and politics in countries affected by war in Africa. The research project also examines the struggle for women’s rights, legal reform and political representation as one important arena for stemming the tide of extremism related to violence in Africa. Lessons from these experiences have policy implications for ongoing conflicts elsewhere in Africa and the Middle East. The research consortium is based at three research centers in the United States of America (US), Norway and Uganda, including nine experienced researchers. The research is being carried out in Somalia, Algeria, Northern Nigeria, South Sudan and Sudan. The three themes of the research include:
- Inclusion and Exclusion in Post-Conflict Governance (Somalia and Algeria),
- Women Activists’ Informal Peacebuilding Strategies (South Sudan and Northern Nigeria)
- Women’s Legal Rights as a Site of Contestation in North Africa (Sudan and Algeria).
Conflict in Africa has changed in nature and has become more intractable as the causes and solutions are more complex. Today, conflicts manifest further through activities of terrorist groups and election violence. The rise, for example, of Boko Haram in Nigeria, Al Shabaab in Somalia, Ansar Dine in Mali, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQUIM) in Algeria and Mali, Movement for Monotheism and Jihad in West Africa in Mali (MUJAO), and other Islamic groups influenced by Salafism and other conservative ideologies, is posing new challenges to these societies. Women often find themselves at the front lines of war, not only as victims but also as prime opponents of some of the more extremist trends in affected countries.
The research is being conducted in five countries in Africa that have experienced or are currently experiencing conflict, to examine the role women have played in peacebuilding at the formal and informal levels and also look at the gains of inclusion and costs of their exclusion. The findings will be composed into case studies and overall comparative findings and a book along with other publications and policy briefs. The project will also hold international conferences and a meeting between women activists and stakeholders in participating countries.
The conference convened a consortium of researchers and women activists working on peace building initiatives in Africa; it also involved those who informed the research. The team of women activists and peace builders joined together in sisterhood to learn from each other what has worked in promoting peace and what gaps remain. Uganda was selected to host the conference because of the country’s long experience in conflict and currently hosting over a million refugees from South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi and Rwanda. Despite the silence of guns, Uganda itself is not yet at peace. The conference centered on the following objectives; Facilitate dialogue and learning around women’s participation and role in Peace building. Provide a platform for cross cultural exchange and learning amongst women peace builders in Africa.