People who voluntarily surrender their illicit weapons and ammunition will not be arrested or prosecuted
In 2017, the African Union (AU) proclaimed September of each year as “Africa Amnesty Month for the surrender and collection of illicit small arms and light weapons” (SALW), and to encourage widespread support for efforts to stop the smuggling of SALW as well as advance the AU’s “Silence the Guns in Africa” by 2030 initiative.
The AU has urged its Member States to continue with “Silencing the Guns” initiatives throughout the year to sustain any momentum gained during September.
Also, Africa’s Regional Economic Communities, other pan-African bodies and civil society organizations are encouraged to widely publicize Africa Amnesty Month to promote citizens’ participation.
This year, the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) plans to support amnesty activities in Liberia, Tanzania, and Togo.
In each country, the public outreach and weapons collection activities are coordinated respectively by the Liberia National Commission on Small Arms (LiNCSA), Tanzania’s National Focal Point Coordinator on Small Arms and Light Weapons and Togo’s Commission Nationale de lutte contre la prolifération, la circulation et le trafic illicites des armes légères et de petit calibre (CNLPAL).
During the amnesty month, people who voluntarily surrender their illicit weapons and ammunition are not arrested or prosecuted. But those who fail to surrender such weapons after the month elapses if caught will likely be prosecuted in line with national laws.
The programme is an opportunity to increase the number of registered weapons and protect people from gun violence, according to Ivor Richard Fung, Deputy Chief of UNODA.
The first amnesty month, in September 2017, saw activities in Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Madagascar, Sudan and Zambia. In December 2019, South Africa launched a six-month amnesty on small arms and light weapons and collected more than 46,000 weapons within the period.
In 2020, UNODA assisted in implementing the Africa Amnesty Month initiative in seven countries – Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, and Kenya.
Mr. Fung said in 2020 that the intent of the amnesty month was not to judge or accuse people of carrying weapons illegally. That is why it is referred to as the amnesty programme because there are no accusations, legal action, charges, or penalties.
The following year, UNODA supported the implementation of Africa Amnesty Month in Madagascar, Niger and Uganda. Funded by Germany, the 2021 programme was implemented with support from the Regional Centre on Small Arms control in the Great Lakes Region, Horn of Africa and Bordering States (RECSA).
It ended in April 2022 with a public event during which 1,497 weapons were destroyed.
The proliferation of illicit small arms and light weapons and their use in different parts of Africa have resulted in countless deaths, untold human suffering, population displacement, the disruption of economic activities and livelihoods and the destruction of critical infrastructure all of which impede efforts at creating a peaceable and prosperous Africa, as envisioned in Agenda 2063—Africa’s blueprint for transformation.
Source: UN Office for Disarmament Affairs