In Ethiopia, decision makers and stakeholders discuss peace and safety in Africa

The African Union Tripoli Declaration of August 2009 created an appeal for African-centered solutions and the treatment of peace and security as a collective intellectual challenge. In 2012, this appeal inspired the Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS) at Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia, and eminent African personalities including Meles Zenawi, the late Ethiopian Prime Minister, to convene the annual Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa”.

The Tana Forum has become a gathering where Africa’s decision-makers, peace and security stakeholder groups and their larger constituencies gather for open discussions about security issues and challenges faced by the continent. And so far, there has been seven editions of the forum.

Arrival of participants and registration for the 7th Tana High-Level Forum began on 20 April 2018 at the Blue Nile Resort, Bahir Dar Ethiopia. The from, which was themed “Ownership of Africa’s Peace and Security Provision: Financing and Reforming the African Union,” officially started on Saturday, 21st of April at the Blue Nile Resort with a book launch. The annual book launch is an opportunity for published authors to present books on peace, security, governance and development in Africa and receive comments on their works.

The book launched at this year’s forum is titled New Fringe Pastoralism: Conflict, Security and Development in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, written by Professor Jerome Gufu, Prof Mohamed Salih (Emeritus), Dr. Ayalew Gebre, and Mr. Jalal Abdel-Latif. It was selected for the book launch event because it highlights the causes of conflict and its consequences on development in three African regions (Sahel, the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes).

Written from a research carried out by the authors, the book reveals that competition over scarce resources stemming from the discovery of oil, gas, mineral, iron ore, and the land rush to secure food and commodities in Africa has become the new causes of conflict in pastoral areas in African countries.

According to Professor Mohamed Salih, who spoke to the audience, “Pastoral areas are rich, but pastoralists are poor. Though they are rich with resources, they remain poor,” thus, pastoral contributions to national wealth have not reflected in their lifestyle.

In response to the findings of the book, former president of Nigeria and immediate past chairman of the Tana Forum board Olusegun Obasanjo said, “We have a serious situation that is dividing our nation,” referring to his country Nigeria. “It’s high time we start proffering customized solutions to address pastoral issues in these regions.”

Following the book launch, there was the Annual Meles Zenawi Lecture Series, dedicated to the memory of the late Ethiopioan Prime minister. The lecture series honours the work, life and memory of modern Africa’s greatest sons. The lecture is also an abiding commitment and continuous effort of understanding and aims to properly document the essence of good leadership in Africa by learning from the examples of those who have come and gone. This year’s lecture was delivered by Samia Nkrumah, the Founder and President of the Kwame Nkrumah Pan-African Centre, Ghana. The title of the lecture was “Leadership in Africa: Reflections on the legacy of the late Gamal Abdel Nasser, former President of Egypt.

The second session of the first day featured a welcome address from the Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia and host of the Tana Forum, Abiy Ahmed Ali. “This year’s theme: Ownership of Africa’s Peace and Security Provision: Financing and Reforming the African Union is entirely relevant and timely, giving reoccurring conflicts and emerging threats that requires continental priority to settle,” Ali said.

Shortly after the address, the chairperson Olusegun Obasanjo delivered a published report on the ‘State of Peace and Security in Africa 2018’. “The number of violent conflicts in Africa in 2017 hardly changes from the previous year; however, there was a noticeable change in terms of intensities, spread and fragmentation,” the report stated. The report was followed by a keynote address from the chairperson of African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat.

Moving on from this session, the main format of panel discussions and interaction with the floor was adopted for the last session of the day that focused on ‘AU Reform and its Implications for Peace and Security in Africa’. The session witnessed views from African decision-makers on two high level panels that shined light on development and security actors as well as global security actors. Events of the first day ended with views from the winners of the annual Tana Forum African Universities’ Essay Competition.

Day two of the event welcomed deliberations from participants on guiding questions surrounding the ‘Ownership and Financing of Peace and Security in Africa’. The session looked at the conceptual and practical implication of “ownership” in the current debate on how to operationalize African ownership of peace and security in Africa post-AU reform.

“We need to be honest with ourselves here,” Obasanjo said during the panel session. “The African Union has not done much about the security issue in the continent. The question is not about funding, rather it’s about the solutions you intend to pursue after you obtain the fund needed. There is need for a clear map of where we are going.”

It was posited in the session that “A reform agenda to put the AU sound and stable footing, especially in financial matters, would not necessarily mean bidding farewell to the number of development partners that currently support the work of the organization. Instead, it could necessitate a reassessment of the basis of continuing partnerships, albeit one where they recognize the growing centrality and autonomy of the African agency.”

Another session on ‘The Content and Shape of the Peace and Security Agenda in the Post-Reform Era’ examined the post reform value that will be added to the AU in terms of the content, shape and direction of peace and security provisions in short and long-term. The session concluded that the challenge for member States would be to commit new and creative ways of pursuing collective responsibility in peace and security within the limitations imposed by sovereignty and unilateralism. Also, there must be some reflection on the future of the relationship with development partners especially those in the peace and security arena, to ensure that expectations are managed within the sphere of changes the reform necessitate.

Tana high-level forum ended on Sunday, the 22 April with summary and takeaways by Olusegun Obasanjo who handed over the chairperson’s position to John Mahama, former President of Ghana.