ARUSHA, Tanzania (AA) – African Union (A.U.) envoys, ambassadors, statesmen, academicians and experts on Tuesday took part in a peace retreat to discuss a host of regional issues, including silencing guns in Africa, terrorism and the ongoing Ebola epidemic.
“We Africans should come up with our own concrete ways of combating peace and security threats on the continent,” Tanzanian Vice-President Mohammed Gharib Bilal said at the official opening ceremony in Arusha.
He urged participants to brainstorm solutions to the emerging threats currently facing Africa, including transnational terrorism, piracy and arms trafficking.
The high-level, closed-door retreat, which will continue until October 23, is being organized by the A.U.’s Peace and Security Council.
The event comes in response to clarion calls to “silence the guns” in Africa by the year 2020 and develop a detailed strategy to achieve this objective.
“The retreat, which is also being attended by former heads of state, aims at addressing threats and emerging challenges on the continent and devising a coherent strategy to silence the guns and enhance economic growth, justice, peace, and stability,” Tanzanian Foreign Minister Bernard Membe told AA.
He said participants would also discuss obstacles to democracy, including electoral fraud and attempts by certain leaders to hold onto power.
“Challenges have increased this year,” the top diplomat noted. “We are going to discuss trans-boundary crimes, such as drug and human trafficking, which are prevalent in Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa.”
Participants are expected to discuss terrorist insurgencies and the ways in which local extremist networks relate both to global trends and to transnational organized criminal networks.
They will also consider the emerging threat of climate change to peace, security and stability.
The outcome of the retreat will be included in the A.U.’s Agenda 2063, a 50-year socio-economic development plan.
The Arusha retreat is the second event organized this year in response to calls to “silence the guns.” A similar retreat was held in April in Durban, South Africa.
Minister Membe said the global threat of Ebola would also be high on the agenda.
“Besides the gun, Ebola is equally a recipe for trouble on the continent as it is displacing people,” he told AA.
“Ebola is an insecurity challenge to Africans who are traditionally used to greeting each other by shaking hands,” the top diplomat added.
“We are going to grapple with ways of curbing the spread of the pandemic,” he asserted.
In recent months, Ebola – a contagious disease for which there is no known treatment or cure – has killed at least 4,546 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, according to the World Health Organization.
A tropical fever that first appeared in 1976 in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ebola can be transmitted to humans from wild animals.
It can also reportedly spread through contact with the body fluids of infected persons or of those who have succumbed to the virus.
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