By Millicent Umoru-O
The African Union (AU) and the Peace Corps of Nigeria (PCN) have called on governments, institutions and people of the African continent to do everything humanly possible to bring to an end issues of insecurity and all forms of violence prevalent in the continent.
This is according to the two institutions is to fast-track desired rapid development of Africa which cannot be achieved in the midst of insecurity.
The AU, represented by Dr Tunji Asaolu, who led a delegation of the Africa Union Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC) on a working visit to the Headquarters of PCN in Abuja, categorically stated that development would continue to elude Nigeria and Africa if nothing is urgently done to enthrone peace and security.
The AU representative appealed to African leaders to begin to set agenda and policies for the continent’s deserved development and at the same time put in place machinery that would make Africa peaceful to attract investment.
As part of its mandate to mobilise and coordinate civil societies and youths for positive engagement, the union demanded for urgent action to stop Guns violence, especially in Nigeria, where the union said had led to gross underdevelopment resulting from cultism, banditry, intercommunal clashes, kidnapping, militancy, insurgency and all other societal vices.
Asaolu strongly called on governments at all levels in Nigeria to increase awareness for peace building, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), security education, mopping up of small and light weapons and reduction of cross border crimes and arms proliferation in the interest of the nation.
He announced that the theme of this year’s AU conference is “Silencing the guns; creating conducive conditions for Africa’s development and assured that the union will partner with Peace Corps in the bid to mobilise youths for positive development.
In a welcome address, National Commandant of the PCN, Ambassador Dickson Akoh, stated that the exponential growth of the abhorrent gun culture in Africa over the last few decades, especially among the youth, has led to either the ignition or exacerbation of all the forms of violent upheavals that have adversely ravaged the continent; be they political, religious, socio-ethnic or economic.
He noted that the quest for development in Africa must be driven pari passu with the desire to put an end to all forms of violent conflicts, and ‘silencing the guns’, which according to him will be a huge step in that direction.
“However, in our bid to truly and permanently silent the guns in Africa, we must adequately address all the factors that predispose our people to the gun culture”, he noted
“In the first instance, the protracted period of military incursion into politics in the region, engendered what I call a militarized civilian populace. The highhandedness and brutality of the military personnel infused a culture of barbarism in the people.
“Also, gunrunning by greedy businesspersons; the proclivity of egocentric politicians to engage mercenaries, or arm their subjects and loyalists during electioneering campaigns and elections in order to crush their perceived political opponents.
” Also the activities of ethnic warlords and self-acclaimed freedom fighters, resulted in the massive proliferation of light weapons and ammunition across the continent. Political contests in Africa in recent years can be likened to theatres of war, where only the strong survives.
“Unfortunately, after the elections are won or lost and the politicians are done with the services of their hired gunmen, often youths, they jettison them.
“Armed with guns and hard drugs, these desperate youths vent their expostulations with these powerful politicians which they no longer have access to, by hurting anyone or anything that stands in their way.
“Africa is also plagued with pervasive social injustice, massive corruption and ostentatious living by the few privileged elites.
“All these factors inflame disillusionment, anger and frustration in the teeming masses, thereby fanning the embers of violence. Widespread poverty caused by corruption and bad governance, is itself, an extenuating factor to violence.
“The aforementioned factors, among others, must be urgently addressed, and the only way of achieving this is to embark on sustainable peace education, where our youths will gradually be educated to unlearn the deeply ingrained culture of violence; and in its place, learn the virtues of peaceful coexistence and the practices of the culture of nonviolence.
“We must equally appeal to our egocentric politicians and ethnic warlords to have a change of heart. Rather than equipping our teeming but unemployed youths with guns, they will do better in creating a peaceful society through massive job creation and genuine empowerment of the youths.