, 07 March, 2020 / 12:30 AM
Ghana is one of the most peaceful and stable countries in Africa that has kept true the spirit of its heroes, Pan-Africanist Kwame Nkurumah and peace ambassador, Koffi Annan, members of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) have observed while launching the Africa Union’s (AU) 2020 “Silencing the Guns” campaign in the West African country.
The Youth Networks for Intergenerational Outcomes (IYNIGO), an Accra-based Christian youth group championing the agenda of peace in Ghana that is inspired by the Jesuits founder St. Ignatius of Loyola has launched the vigorous campaign.
The campaign is aimed at getting rid of illegally acquired weapons in Ghana and in Africa under the auspices of the Jesuit Justice and Ecology Network Africa (JENA), a community of Jesuits that works in marginalized regions in Africa.
Explaining the choice of Ghana as host country for the inauguration of the campaign that targets all AU member states Wednesday, March 4, Fr. Charles Chilufya, the Director of JENA said the launch was taking place in Ghana because the West African country is an oasis of peace.
“Ghana is one of the most fortunate countries in Africa and in the whole world that enjoys stability, relative peace, high rate of economic growth and increasing prosperity,” said Fr. Charles, adding, “Ghana’s ongoing economic miracle has been made possible by peaceful coexistence of different ethnic and religious groups and by the political stability that the country has enjoyed for several years.”
The Jesuit cleric added, “Another major reason it makes sense to launch the campaign in Ghana is in recognition of the great statesman, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s great Pan-African vision that led to the establishment of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), now referred to as AU.”
Eulogizing Ghanaian Kofi Annan, former United Nations Secretary General, Fr. Charles said, “his (Annan’s) great work in the promotion of global peace has left a memorable impact on Africa and all nations of the world.”
These initiatives by Kofi Annan, he said, have borne fruit with the “guns being silenced in previous hotspots such as Angola, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia and Sierra Leone.”
“Significant strides have been made in protracted conflicts in Somalia and Sudan, and grassroot peace-building initiatives on the continent have also helped to prevent and respond to potential conflicts,” Fr. Charles pointed out.
He added, “While good progress has been made in reducing state-driven conflicts, recurring conflicts in several regions are rolling back gains already made in achieving lasting peace. Guns are still active 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.”
The Jesuit expressed concern that violent extremism in the Sahel and parts of the Horn and Eastern Africa was still a challenge for countries in these regions.
In South Sudan, the Jesuit director confirmed that economic migrants from Uganda, largely petty traders, battle xenophobia when they settle in Africa’s youngest nation.
“They (Ugandans) are harassed by the police, arrested and serially brutalized. They are accused of taking local jobs,” Fr. Charles said, noting that Kenyans too continue to be brutalized in South Sudan where “some of them get killed.”
He added, “Kenya, though has its own fare share in Afrophobia, the Somali Kenyans, constituting about 6 percent of the Kenyan population, are randomly arrested and detained in inhumane and degrading camps and sometimes told they are not Kenyans.”
About Sudan, the priest stated, “The Janjawid crisis in Sudan is a form of xenophobia. The Arab group and its leadership are believed to be pursuing the agenda of wiping out African tribes in Darfur. We are calling attention to this problem just to show that we have more problems with peacebuilding in this regard than we seem ready to acknowledge.”
Blaming youth unemployment on insecurity in African countries, The Jesuit cleric said, “Despite the AU leaders’ resolution not to pass the burden of conflict to future generations, about 600 million young people in Africa are unemployed, uneducated or in insecure employment hence vulnerable to taking up arms.”
He said that empowering youth and helping them to achieve their dreams through gainfulness would help alleviate the challenge of insecurity.
“If we want to see ‘the Africa we Want’ as we promise ourselves in the Agenda 2063, we need to take seriously the youth dividend who form over 70 percent of the African population,” he said.
“We need to empower young people and give them means to become responsible and capable individuals, but more importantly help them to realize their own dreams,” the Jesuit cleric said and stressed, “We must be intentional and proactive about this and not merely speak about it.”
Dubbed “Silencing the guns by 2020: I want to grow old”, the campaign aims to enforce a just, poverty-free, peaceful, and ecologically regenerative Ghana and Africa.
Reports indicate that out of about 640 million Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALWs) circulating globally, about 100 million are in Africa. The statistics further show that about 30 million of this number are in sub-Saharan Africa, with 8 million of that in West Africa alone.
About 59 percent of these SALWs are in the hands of civilians, 38 per cent owned by government Armed Forces, 2.8 percent are with the Police while 0.2 per cent are held by armed groups.
Of great concern is the 59 percent that is in the hands of civilians, many of whom may not have any serious training in weapon handling, and also the 0.2 per cent or the 16,000 SALWs that are in the hands of armed groups like the Boko Haram, and other political and faith based militias in the West African sub-region.
Professor Elias N. K. Sowley, Chairman of the Ghana’s National Catholic Laity Council, called on the Ghana government to develop robust mechanisms for monitoring the inflows of arms in the country.
“Citizens who own guns whether legally or illegally should be encouraged to register them without penalties particularly in the case of illegally acquired one,” Sowley said.
The Church leader added, “Those who have been licensed to use guns should be given some basic training on safe handling of these dangerous weapons.”
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa