Nairobi — The African Union (AU) High Representative for Silencing the Guns in Africa, Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas, has urged artists across the continent to utilize their talents in championing for peace amidst escalating conflicts in the region.
Dr. Chambas underscored the importance of artists gaining a deeper understanding of the efforts aimed at fostering a cohesive society through conflict prevention, resolution, and reconciliation.
Chambas made the remarks when the AU in collaboration with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), convened a five-day virtual training for another cohort of artists which ran from September 18- September 22 2023, under the theme: 'Leveraging Arts for Peace'.
The premise of the training rested on the belief that art has the power to prevent conflicts within communities by raising awareness and promoting tolerance toward societal differences.
"As artists, you have the power to not only bring people together, but also inspire a sense of community," said Chambas.
Held during the Africa Amnesty Month, the training was organised by the AU Department of Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), through the Silencing the Guns (STG) Unit.
It brought together 25 African artists from all the regions of Africa, to not only raise their consciousness about promoting peaceful co-existence in communities, but also to sensitize them against the use of the art to incite violence, promote hate speech, hate crimes or other forms of conflict.
Svenja Vollmer, who represented Evariste Karambizi, the Director of the Division for Peace at UNITAR, applauded artists for their unique ability to translate complex emotions, experiences and societal issues into tangible and relatable forms.
She called upon the artists to use their creative energy to bolster the common goal of silencing the guns in Africa.
"Through music, dance, visual arts, literature, theatre, and more, your guilds have historically challenged injustice, promoted dialogue, and kindled the flames of social change," she stated.
The training encompassed discussions on the role of artists in advancing peace advocacy through various arts, principles for effective advocacy and outreach, the AU's efforts in promoting peace and security, and existing approaches and frameworks for silencing the guns in Africa, among other topics.
Furthermore, the training guided participants with the knowledge and skills to advance peace and security through artistic expression.
It also focused on heightening awareness and promoting ownership of the AU's Silencing the Guns initiative to campaign towards supporting country-level interventions to achieve a conflict free Africa and create favourable conditions for the continent's socio-economic transformation.
The artists were also taken through the AU Master Roadmap of Practical Steps to Silence the Guns in Africa - the guiding document for the Silencing the Guns initiative, which highlights interventions that need to be taken in the political, economic, social, environmental and legal aspects.
They also explored the concepts of conflict and conflict analysis and the role of artists in advancing peace, among others.
The participants exchanged views and brainstormed on creative ideas that would heighten public awareness on Silencing the Guns and the negative impact of the proliferation of illicit small arms and light weapons on the continent.
In December 2021, the Silencing the Guns Unit organized a continental seminar on "Art, Culture and Heritage, as Levers to Silence the Guns in Africa", in Accra, Ghana with the aim of sensitizing African Artists on the importance of promoting a culture of peace.