During the opening ceremony of the 34th session of the Conference of Heads of State of the African Union on February 6, 2021, the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo His Excellency Felix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo officially received hands of the outgoing president of the AU commission Moussa Faki Mahamat the flag and the hammer, symbol of the power in exercise of the African Union 2021. This transfer of power marks a decisive turning point for the DRC of which the power of the president of the republic is still facing several internal political and economic challenges for Africa in a context of deteriorating security conditions, the rise of terrorism and the COVID-19 pandemic with its devastating effects as well as incalculable consequences on the African continent.
The arrival of the President of the DRC as head of the AU coincides with the history of an Africa marked by pivotal periods where immense upheavals have put him to the test. Africa also faces several major challenges on this day, including that of silencing the guns.
How can the DRC show leadership in the AU and meet the challenge of peace and security for all of Africa?
The future of the African continent is playing out in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “Africa is shaped like a revolver with the trigger in Zaire” (current DRC), observed Franz Fanon.
Thus, the Democratic Republic of Congo, in view of its geostrategic position in the heart of Africa, can play a central role through this presidency at the AU by strengthening cooperation in matters of peace and security, promoting good governance and sustainable development. This is possible under three axes namely:
1.The AU as a lever for DRC’s foreign policy to strengthen peace and security in the Great Lakes region, the Horn of Africa and neighboring countries:
Starting from its geopolitical and strategic position, the vocation of the DRC is not to be the weak link of Central Africa, but rather its backbone in the heart of Africa and which is found at a crossroads of many regions. It is a member of the Economic Community of Central African States, SADC and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region. She has also expressed interest in officially joining the East African Community. This could work in President Felix Tshisekedi’s favor as he strives to reach consensus as AU president.
From his accession to the supreme office, the foreign policy of President Felix Tshisekedi to favor the principle of good neighborliness, in particular with the Congo, Angola, Uganda, Rwanda and Zambia, and could count on them to obtain a support as AU chairman.
However, this does not guarantee an automatic rallying of these stakeholders around its work, but could help broaden and consolidate diplomatic engagements.
Also, in order to make the AU an effective instrument of its foreign policy and strengthen cooperation in the area of peace and security, the DRC must lead by example with regard to regional commitments in the security sector, it must implement implements the Nairobi protocol, adopted on April 21, 2004 with a view to preventing, controlling and reducing small arms and light weapons in the Great Lakes region, the Horn of Africa and neighboring countries to which certain ECCAS States have adhered , has the merit of being a legally binding instrument.
To stop the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in Central Africa, it must urgently ratify the Central African Convention for the control of small arms and light weapons, their ammunition and all parts and components that can be used for their manufacture, repair and assembly, known as the Kinshasa Convention, to strengthen the control of small arms and light weapons and to combat their illicit trade and trafficking in Central Africa with the aim of silencing the arms in Africa. It should also contribute to the development of common security policies, regional, sub-regional and national implementations and other mechanisms promoting peace and security on the continent.
2.Revitalization of multilateralism and the principle of the African vocation to strengthen cooperation in peace and security of the AU:
The African vocation constitutes the second priority axis of the foreign policy of the DRC. Although 2020 has been named the Year of Silencing the Gun by the AU, and fragile peace is taking hold in South Sudan and Libya, new conflicts have erupted in Ethiopia with potential risk of destabilization. throughout the Horn of Africa region, in the Central African Republic, in the Sahel, Lake Chad region, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon, armed violence and repeated conflicts continue to cause loss of life and displacement. It is now evident that the process of restoring stability has begun to strengthen this African vocation within the AU.
Congolese diplomacy must strengthen its actions in favor of prevention and consolidation of peace with the aim of resolving conflicts. To be effective, through its presidency in the exercise of the AU 2021, the DRC must make the ratification of the AU protocol establishing the peace and security council a priority. (CPS) this will allow the implementation of its foreign policy within the framework of the peaceful resolution of disputes in the most effective manner within the Peace and Security Council, which is the permanent decision-making body of the African Union in in the field of conflict prevention, management and resolution.
This protocol also constitutes a system of collective security and early warning, aimed at enabling a rapid and effective reaction to situations of conflict and crisis in Africa. It is the central pillar of the African Peace and Security Architecture as part of the promotion of peace, security and stability on the African continent. The presidency of the AU is accompanied by certain prerogatives acquired under the duties of “representing the Union and promoting the objectives and principles of the AU”. This represents an opportunity for President Tshisekedi to increase his stature in the multilateral world space and to allow the DRC to play its leadership role in the heart of Africa.
3.Strengthening the AU’s commitment to advance disarmament and international security:
The existence of nuclear weapons poses a constant threat to the world. New threats (such as artificial intelligence, in cyberspace, etc.) are starting to shape the lives of current generations as well as those of future generations. Nuclear weapons are increasingly becoming the trend for weapons that can be used in the event of a conflict between countries possessing such weapons. The Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty entered into force on January 22, 2021, since that day nuclear weapons have become illegal under international law.
The Democratic Republic of Congo, which indirectly found itself at the heart of this dark page of history, since the uranium for the first Little Boy atomic bomb came from these mines. Can rewrite a new page in history at the head of the AU by recommitting all AU states to the voice of disarmament with a common position which will aim to collectively and unanimously ratify the Treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons (TIAN). The catastrophic humanitarian consequences that any use of nuclear weapons would have pose a threat to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that the African continent strives to achieve. The African countries must reaffirm their attachment to humanitarian commitment and their desire to make TIAN a priority axis of their foreign and defense policy within the African Union.
With the arrival of President Felix Tshisekedi as head of the AU, the continent is therefore at a turning point in terms of international peace and security. We cannot say it enough, Africa is not a continent apart, detached from the others, locked in I do not know what isolation. We all continue to face the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. Africa is beating at the same rate as the world. And the heart of Africa beats in the DRC. She has the opportunity to play her leadership role in the heart of Africa. That of having contributed to the universalization of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in order to contribute to international peace and security.
Tribune by Simabatu Mayele Sims Nono,
Diplomat, Researcher and expert on issues related to Disarmament and Arms Control, Executive Director of the Center for Research and Information for Disarmament and Security.