By JOHN SAKALA
Zambia Ambassador to Ethiopia Susan Sikaneta says Zambia is committed to observing September as Africa Month for the surrender of illegal weapons.
The African Union -AU- declared September, of each year till 2020, as Africa Amnesty Month for the surrender of illegally owned weapons (arms), in line with the African and international best practices.
The decision was made during the 29th Heads of States and Government Summit, 2017 where Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu presented a Master Roadmap to summit on Practical Steps to Silencing the Guns in Africa by 2020.
The Master Roadmap on Silencing the Guns in Africa by 2020 that was presented by President Edgar Lungu during the summit was crafted in November 2016, during a retreat of the Peace and Security Council that was held in Lusaka.
Ms Sikaneta who is also Zambia’s Permanent Representative to the AU emphasised on the need for all countries to support the stance taken by the AU in order to end conflicts in Africa.
“The decision of the AU on the surrender of weapons states that persons who surrender their illegally owned weapons shall not be subjected to disclosure, humiliation, arrest or prosecution, so it’s important that relevant authorities sensitize the citizenry on this important matter,’’ she said
Ms Sikaneta also emphasized the need for massive publicity on the Amnesty month by the media. She disclosed that the African Union will sponsor two workshops for the media and military personnel in Zambia so that they can be enlightened about the importance of the amnesty month and help in creating awareness.
She urged Civil Society Organizations, faith based organisations and other stakeholders to publicise through media networks the Africa Amnesty Month within their territories and regions in order to raise awareness.
The Ambassador further called for peaceful resolution of disputes on the continent.
“The onus is therefore upon us to ensure that while eliminating the scourge of illegal weapons in the continent, we address these challenges for a conducive environment, and then the people will have no reason to seek illegal weapons, “she said.
Ms Sikaneta noted with concern that illicit weapons are sourced, first, outside the continent, through illegal trade facilitated by networks of corruption, illicit financing, clandestine transit and delivery to end users in Africa.
The African Union envisages that the Amnesty month can be successful if member states work at strengthening the criminal justice response to illicit arms trade, strengthen the capacities of police and security institutions and heighten border security.
President Lungu during the 29th Heads of States and Government Summit states that Zambia had put in place a firearms amnesty, which has a monetary value attached to it, as a means to detect and recover illicit firearms from ordinary citizens.
Zambia is one of the countries that have ratified the Arms Trade Treaty.
This is according to a media statement made available to The Independent Observer by First Secretary for Press and Tourism at the Zambian Embassy in Ethiopia Inutu Mwanza