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Killer Robots: A threat to peace in the African region

2021-06-17

TEXT: Bibiana Tanda

Humanity is like the sun. Its value is irreplaceable. The development of weapons, including lethal autonomous weapon systems, puts the world on the verge of more suffering, destruction and threatens the very core of human dignity and existence. The global south, though not part of the development of killer robots, is more exposed to bearing the brunt of their operationalization since the south is prone to armed conflicts and often is used as a testing ground for such innovations.

We live in a fast-growing globalised world, with technological advancement soon becoming at the beck and call of a significant amount of the world’s population. Robots are gradually taking over activities of humans, cars operating independently, and every corner of the world becoming more accessible. As fascinating as this might look and sound, it becomes terrifying knowing that we can be the creators of our own destruction. The production and deployment of lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS), or killer robots, might enhances efficient military operations, but what about the enormous risk that LAWS post to civilians and to countries without them?
– When you save military lives by deploying killer robots, you are exposing civilian lives, especially women and children who are more susceptible to violence, says Guy Feugap, Communications Officer, WILPF Cameroon.

Who will be held accountable if these machines go rogue? Autonomous weapons systems once developed and deployed, act independently without human control.
– We know that technology has good aspects, so let us dwell on the good and leave the bad to avoid people being killed massively particularly in war situations, says Dr. Ayo Ayoola-Amale, President of WILPF Ghana.

To the left: Dr. Ayo Ayoola-Amale, President of WILPF Ghana. Photo: Campaign to Stop Killer Robots

The global south continues to be disproportionately affected by different crises like climate change, unending armed conflicts, and violence, and now, are more at risk due to the development of LAWS with the power of decision-making to enforce violence.
– We already have security issues such as the terrorist attacks at the far North which are mostly caused by the circulation and the use of war arms, we do not want to have to deal with killer robots that have no human control, says Guy Feugap.

Despite the resistance to engage in the issue by some on the grounds that there are more pressing issues like hunger and poverty to worry about, the WILPF Sections involved in the issue means that it is vital to understand that the best way of solving crisis is to prevent them from occurring. The consequences of autonomous weapons are crucial and the more they are produced, the less expensive they become, and eventually, they will find their way to the continent just like other weapons. This poses grievous risks.
– We work to prevent the development, because once they are deployed, they become difficult to stop, says Ayo Ayoola- Amale.

WILPF has been active in the global campaign to stop the development of killer robots and some of the African Sections have been committed, working in collaboration with other organisations at the national and international level in creating awareness and advocating for the ban of LAWS. In Cameroon, WILPF has been vocal, collaborating with local CSO’s, other African Sections, and the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots in Africa and internationally, to create awareness of the dangers as they advocate for them to be banned. Their work is also directed to young Cameroonians who are involved in the development of artificial intelligence, such as drones, to be cautious not to engaged in the productions of non-human controlled weapons.

In the African region the threat is double, internally due to the political instability and a window dressing democracy, these weapons can be used to neutralize political opponents in times of elections or political disagreements, carry out gender-based violence, targeted killings on men who are seen as a threat, or women as a way of extinguishing groups of people of a specific descent or ethnicity, since women are seen as reproducers of nations and communities. And externally, as armed conflicts, and the “war on terror” are globalised phonemes with power and money all linked together.

There is a need to consider the basic societal norms, equity, the lack of judgment, and social biases that defined killer robots. International Humanitarian Law forbids the killing of civilians and since the question of responsibility is unclear when it comes to weapons without human control, civilians are at greater risk of being killed without accountability.

In Ghana, WILPF continue to strive for the stop of such weapons as they sensitize the public on their impacts through visual arts shows, advocacy, and awareness-raising.
– There is need to push for legislation that regulates and bans the use of LAWS. Killer robots lack human emotions and once in the wrong hands, like terrorist groups, they can cause a lot of terror. We must continue the advocacy as warriors of peace, as people who want to take control and drive themselves to safety, says Dr. Ayo Ayoola-Amale.

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