Africa 24 News Interview with the Special Envoy on Women Peace and Security.

Background about Mme Diop

My Name is Bineta Diop, the Special Envoy of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission on Women, Peace and Security. I am from Senegal I studied Management in France and Public Relations and Communication in Switzerland. I began my career at the International Commission of Jurist as the coordinator of programs. I left the ICJ and founded Femmes Africa Solidarité (FAS), an international NGO in 1996. FAS seeks to foster, strengthen, and promote the leadership role of women in conflict prevention and peacebuilding in Africa and got involved in the drafting of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol), which became the main legal instrument for the protection of the rights of women and girls in Africa. Since 2014 I have been the African Union Commission’s Chairperson Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security. First appointed by the former Chairperson, H.E Dlamini Zuma and continue to serve with the current Chairperson, H.E Moussa Faki Mahamat.

Tell us about your vision on the role of women on the continent

A guiding factor for me is the importance of women’s leadership. Just from a statistical perspective, it is important that women lead.  Beyond this, the evidence shows that the significant participation of women in decision-making spheres contributes meaningfully to peace processes, ultimately reducing tension. I often use the example of the African Women’s Leadership Network (AWLN) as a good model to drive women’s leadership on the continent. AWLN was established by women leaders with this perspective, with the support of the African Union Commission and UN Women, as an Africa wide women movement to drive women leadership across spheres for the transformation of Africa, in line with Africa Agenda 2063 and the Global Sustainable Development Agenda 2030. AWLN through its national chapters joined forces to provide support to communities, advocate for women leadership and the considerations of their needs in COVID-19 responses and post COVID action, ensuring women participation in national elections and responding to violence.

Secondly, I think it is important to drive mainstreaming and equal participation of women in peace processes, including in conflict prevention, management, resolution, and peacebuilding. The solidarity missions I undertook led to my immersive engagements with women on the ground. I learned of the realities of the women in The Great Lakes, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. My observation of the women of Sierra Leone and Liberia revealed the depths, dimensions, and the extent to which women’s bodies were violated and unaccounted for in times of war reaffirmed the need for women’s participation in peace processes and we can see the changes that were made when the women of the MANO river came together to end the conflict in the region. Also, we saw the Congolese women galvanizing for peace in their region putting aside their personal differences to ensure there is peace and stability in the country. The women of Congo formed part of the delegations and created the women’s caucus in Sun City, South Africa. These women contributed to the transformation of the governance mechanism of the country, increasing the number of women at the negotiation table from 2% to 12%.

With the recent power overthrow observed in several African countries, what can you say about efforts towards peace and security across the continent?

The African Union condemns any unconstitutional change in government and at the same time, these coups are sometimes an expression of poor governance and insecurity in these countries.  

The African Union leads policymaking and implementation of decisions aimed at ensuring that Africa achieves Aspiration 4 of Agenda 2063 which aspires for “A peaceful and secure Africa” using mechanisms that promote a dialogue-centred approach to conflict prevention and resolution of conflicts and establishing of a culture of peace. Agenda 2063 flagship initiative of Silencing the Guns by 2020 is at the core of activities being put in place to ensure Africa is a more peaceful and stable continent. The African Union is working to ensure peace and stability across the continent by developing and implementing a Master Roadmap on Practical Steps to Silence the Guns – which seeks to end the cycle of violent conflicts and disruptive crises on the continent

The African Union has brought down sanctions on states that have experienced coups, but we have seen that these sanctions also affect women and children. In a bid to support these women, we have organized a solidarity mission in places like Mali to echo the voice of women and show support to the issue they are going through.

The PSC has held meetings on issues in Chad, Sudan, Burkina Faso, Guinea, and Mali and there have been various decisions that have come out of these sessions.  Many processes are ongoing with the respective regional body (ECOWAS) to essentially force stakeholders towards a more inclusive and representative government.

What measures can be put in place by the African governments to reinforce peace and security in their various countries?

Like I had already said, African governments have set off on the right footing through policy engagements and initiatives on ending the conflict on the continent.  I think we should consider the nature of peace. There is a distinction between Negative and Positive peace, and we must factor that into our conversations on peace and security on the continent. We need to work towards the concept of positive peace which is the absence of violence and the promotion of reconciliation and coexistence of all citizens based on human rights and Social Economic and Political Justice. Our goal when speaking of peace and security would be to strengthen the capacity of societies in promoting a culture of positive peace on the continent.

What progress has been made so far in efforts towards silencing the guns

The African Union’s Silencing the Guns agenda has been a core part of the work of the Union over the past decade with the specific focus as Theme of the Year in 2013 and 2020.  We are happy that the agenda of silencing guns was extended to 2031 and it gives us the opportunity as African women in working towards silencing guns completely in Africa. Silencing the Guns is also about building peace at community levels and women have been spearing heading peace processes at community levels.

  • Under the Agenda 2063 flagship of ‘Silencing the Guns’ by 2020 the AU through my office advocates for women’s meaningful participation and leadership efforts towards promoting peace, enhancing good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law.
  • In the cause of the pandemic, we have seen issues of gender-based violence against women which is known as the shadow pandemic, and we are promoting one stop centres for women across the continent for women to have their own spaces.
  • Some of the achievement over the past decade is the adoptions of 30 National Action Plans, 6 Regional Action Plans.
  • We have developed the second chairpersons report and the first one was done in 2019 and the reporting of countries was low but in our second report, we have had more countries report through the continental result framework.
  • These efforts have helped place Africa at the vanguard of the WPS Agenda as

50% of the Member States have adopted National Action Plans (NAPs).

  • We have had solidarity missions in places like Cabo Delgado in Mozambique with the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, Amina Mohammed and in Mali during the transition government of Mali to show support to women in Mali.

Various plans have been adopted to ensure peace and security in Africa. We have the signing of the peace accords, military cooperation, the initiation of political dialogues and many more. Despite these efforts, the stability of the continent is still threatened by terrorist attacks, particularly in West Africa. What isn’t going right?

On the issue of terrorism, it is essential to recognize the complexities involved and the causes of violence and insurgency in African nations vary a great deal. In many cases, as in the Sahel, terrorism is often a symptom of much more complex than a problem by itself. In many cases, issues of weak governance, characterised by corruption, impunity, disorientation, marginalization of groups often led to terrorist groupings. This combined with the rise of ideologies, and failure to provide security for a vast section of the citizens.

We have seen a lot of capture of terrorist group leaders but there is not a lot of prosecution including because these battles are often long drawn. This lack of accountability and justice increases hostilities between governments and neglected communities that bear the brunt of these attacks. Paradoxically, terrorist movements thrive on this and continue to operate and make demands. With issues of terrorism, we have seen in the Sahel, we often forget that women are the first observers in character change in people and can play a strong role in prevention. In community watches in the Sahel, more women are getting involved. It is important to involve women in the fight against terrorism. We can do this through empowering women in sensitizing people against terrorism, Improved women’s education, establishing continent-wide networks and sufficient funding for women’s anti-terrorism activities.

Engagement with states, therefore, requires joint action as we see with Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad collaborating and the involvement of women. Nevertheless, to bring stability to countries affected by terrorism, national and multilateral actors must switch their primary focus from military interventions to tackling poor governance and development issues.

How has the partnership between the African Union, REC’s the AU Peace Fund and Member states helped maintain peace and security on the continent?

First, it is important to realise that the Peace Fund is not an institution, but an instrument established under Art 21 of the protocol establishing the Peace and Security Council of the African Union to finance AU Peace and Security operation. While the African Union and RECs are made up of member states of the African Union working together in a collective effort in stabilizing the continent.

There are nine AU-mandated Peace Support Operations deployed since 2003, as well as four AU-authorised missions. The PSOs mounted to date include the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID); Regional Cooperation Initiative for the Elimination of the Lord’s Resistance Army (RCI-LRA); Human Rights Observers and Military Experts in Burundi which has ended. In addition, Sub-regional security arrangements have been rolled out including the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) against Boko Haram and G5 Sahel Joint Force.

The Peace and Security Council Protocol provides the African Standby Force which is composed of standby multidisciplinary contingents, comprising of a civilian and military component in their countries of origin, ready for rapid deployment. A Regional Standby Force six-month rostering system began operation on 1 January 2017, in line with the Declaration of the Ninth Ordinary Session of the Specialised Technical Committee on Defence, Safety and Security in June 2016.

All these peace support operations are all collaborations between African Union Member States who contribute troops or financial contributions to ensure that peace and stability are maintained on the continent. The added value provided by the Peace Fund is the financial backing to ensure that these interventions are effectively implemented.

How can Africa 24 Support Peace Keeping Mission across the Continent

The media plays a great role as a critical part of society. The media tell the stories of our engagement and shape narratives that determine our actions.  Now, more than ever, where we live in what is often described as a post-truth world, it is important that media organisations such as Africa 24 can continue the pursuit of truth. This includes ensuring that narratives that cause divisiveness and escalate tension are eschewed. This also requires a balanced approach to engaging with stories ensuring that the required nuances are explored and interrogated.

Finally, and relatedly, it is important that we tell African stories in a voice and context that many Africans will understand. All too often, the story of the continent is told by voices from outside the continent that interrogate the stories from non-African lenses. While this is their reality, it is important that Africa 24 can tell the story of Africans.