Tana Forum: Obasanjo says it’s time for Africa to own its security

The Board chairperson of Tana Forum and former president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, has officially launched the 7th Tana Forum which is scheduled to take place on the 21st and 22nd of  April 2018.

This year’s edition themed, “Ownership of Africa’s Peace and Security Provision: Financing and Reforming the African Union,” corresponds with the ongoing AU reform process which seeks to ensure the organization’s long-term financial independence and sustainability.

The President of Rwanda and the current African Union (AU) Chairperson Paul Kagame who happens to be the keynote speaker for this year’s forum noted that the AU faces a rapidly changing security environment. In view of this, Obasanjo emphasized that security is only one aspect of the current reform process which includes a 0.2 percent levy that will be imposed on eligible imports from outside Africa.

Obasanjo who remained positive praised the levy, describing the plan as “measurable, equitable and sustainable”.

“It is not the first time such an initiative is happening in Africa. For instance, ECOWAS did it before, and it has been fairly successful in West Africa,” Obasanjo said when questioned on the political will required from member states to guarantee the reform’s implementation.

The press conference was later followed by a briefing with ambassadors and partners based in Addis Ababa. The director for  Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS) at Addis Ababa University, Dr. Kidane Kiros, noted that one of the biggest setbacks with the AU reform agenda is compliance by member states when it comes to the implementation of various policies.

Obasanjo also noted that for the effective implementation of the AU reforms, trust has to be built between Regional Economic Communities (RECs), the AU Commission and individual African countries.

However, the current financial structure of the AU, where partners cover 60 percent of the budget, questions how African member states are expected to have ownership over their security while at the same time remaining reliant on external donors.

“We cannot talk about security without talking about financing,” Obasanjo said.

Tana Forum’s financial independence where 70 percent of the funds are provided by the Ethiopian government and the African private sector was also noted as another example that encourages African ownership in setting the agenda and driving the narrative.

In response to a question about  Tana Forum’s effectiveness in bringing about changes in African leadership, the former president clarified that the Forum does not require or expect the implementation of its recommendations. Instead, its added value is in creating a space for the exchange of ideas and policies from around the continent. Furthermore, the Forum’s impact might not always be clear or credited, he stated, but “it’s good enough for us that African leaders make use of it”.

The Forum’s participants, its board members, its technical committee, its partners, and its organizing secretariat at the Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS) at Addis Ababa University, all represent a diverse grouping of African stakeholders in the area of peace and security.