Africa Amnesty Month
In 2017, at its 29th Summit, the African Union Assembly declared September of each year “Africa Amnesty Month”, for the “surrender and collection of illegally owned weapons/arms, in line with international and regional good practices”.
According to the decision, “persons who surrender their illegally owned weapons/arms shall not be subjected to disclosure humiliation, arrest or prosecution”. Hence, Africa Amnesty Month represents on the one hand a tool to reduce illicit flows of small arms and light weapons (SALW) on the continent, and on the other hand an opportunity for all to jointly contribute to peace, security and sustainable development.
The illegal possession of SALW by non-state actors, individuals, and groups is known to be a key instigator of armed violence, impeding socio-economic development and security on the continent. The nexus between illicit SALW trafficking, organized crime and terrorism is widely recognized and represents a crucial threat in many parts of Africa, including the Sahel and the Horn of Africa. The outbreak of COVID-19 has further exacerbated the suffering of those exposed to armed conflict complicating crucial access to healthcare facilities and shelter. The pandemic also brought new urgency to address the gendered impact of the illicit proliferation of small arms and ammunition pointing to a dramatic increase in cases of gender-based violence often facilitated through the misuse of small arms.
The Africa Amnesty Month, in support of the broader AU “Silencing the Guns” flagship initiative, helps to prevent and reduce the illegal circulation and misuse of SALW, which is central to realizing peace, security and stability on the continent. It constitutes an important opportunity to attain the goals laid out in the Lusaka Roadmap, as well as a commitment to the joint achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Agenda 2063. In this regard, Africa Amnesty Month particularly supports the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 16 on Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions and its Target 16.4 on the significant reduction of illicit arms flow.
In 2020, the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), together with the African Union Commission (AUC) initiated a joint project to support the implementation of the Africa Amnesty Month in interested African States. The project was carried out in seven African States, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, and Kenya, and was generously funded by the Government of Japan and the Federal Government of Germany. Jointly undertaken by UNODA and the AUC, the project also included the Regional Centre on Small Arms in the Great Lakes Region, the Horn of Africa, and the Bordering States (RECSA) as implementing partners.