7th Tana Forum acknowledges challenges in realizing African ownership in peace and security
Dr. Abiy commended the Tana Forum as having “proved itself worthy of being taken seriously as a veritable platform for energetic and purposeful conversation on pressing, actionable and relevant peace and security challenges facing Africa”.
25 April 2018
Bahir Dar, Ethiopia – The 7th Tana Forum concluded on 22 April with more than 200 participants gathering to discuss the theme of ‘Ownership of Africa’s Peace and Security Provision: Financing and Reforming the African Union’. High-level government officials attending the Forum included Dr. Abiy Ahmed Ali, Prime Minister of Ethiopia; Omar al-Bashir, President of Sudan; John Dramani Mahama, former President of Ghana; Dr. Aminata Touré, former Prime Minister of Senegal, Kgalema Motlanthe, former President of South Africa; Louise Mushikiwabo, Foreign Minister of Rwanda; Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu, Foreign Minister of Ethiopia; Eusebio Lambo, Minister for Combatants, Mozambique; Graça Machel, Founder and Director of the Graça Machel Trust; and Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission.
In his opening remarks, Dr. Abiy commended the Tana Forum as having “proved itself worthy of being taken seriously as a veritable platform for energetic and purposeful conversation on pressing, actionable and relevant peace and security challenges facing Africa”. Recognizing the significance of member states being able to finance their own security, he further stated, “Only through sustainable long term funding can the AU follow an independent agenda that speaks to the common practices and needs of its member states”.
The 2-day meeting featured several side events and key activities, including a public lecture delivered by the new Forum chairperson John Dramani Mahama, the annual book launch featuring a new release on pastoralism in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, the annual Meles Zenawi lecture on African leadership – with a focus on Gamal Abdel Nasser and presented by Samia Nkrumah, as well as a special roundtable on human security organized in collaboration with the Munich Security Conference.
AUC chairperson calls for less ignorance to local contexts
In his keynote address, Mahamat noted that “the only viable responses to the challenges we are facing will be endogenous”. Following the adoption of proposed reforms by the AU Assembly in January 2017, Mahamat created the Institutional Reforms Unit within his own office in September 2017 to oversee the implementation of the reforms plan between 2017 and 2018.
In an update to participants on the current status of the reform plan: “$41.6 million has been paid into the Peace Fund, with the target, for the current year, of mobilizing $65 million. This is the highest level of contribution ever made to the Peace Fund since it was established in 1993”.
“Experience has shown too often the futility of solutions that ignore the contexts in which they are supposed to be implemented”, stated Mahamat.
On the role of partners, he said “Their role must not be belittled or neglected. Independence means constructive engagement with different stakeholders interested in Africa on an equal footing”.
Mahamat also announced an upcoming meeting in May between the AUC and the European Commission to sign a Cooperation Agreement on Peace and Security to “formalize the already intense relationship existing between our two institutions”.
“The Tana Forum has grown from strength to strength, and has become the foremost think tank on peace and security in Africa” – John Dramani Mahama
Former Ghana president takes over Tana Forum chairmanship
During the closing ceremony, President Obasanjo stepped down as chairperson after heading the Tana Forum Board for the past 7 years. His tenure, which began in 2012 with the creation of the Tana Forum, has seen the Forum grow to become one of the most relevant meetings on peace and security in Africa. The handover ceremony was led by former Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, who thanked Obasanjo for his commitment and welcomed Mahama as an individual who possesses a “pedigree as a tested and committed pan-Africanist and respected statesman”.
“With a very high sense of gratitude, I want to thank the Board and Secretariat of the Tana Forum for the opportunity to serve my (African) people,” said Mahama in his acceptance speech. “The Tana Forum has grown from strength to strength, and has become the foremost think tank on peace and security in Africa.”
He praised the significance of traditional African knowledge systems as “rich repositories of science, technology and knowledge in general. In them you can find lessons in governance, strategy, inclusiveness, spirituality, accountability and leadership”, and called for a “change in mind-set to own and promote our traditional African knowledge and also incorporate best practices from elsewhere in building our people and institutions”.
On the ambitious 0.2% levy on eligible imports that will act as member states’ contributions to the AU, he acknowledged that “more political negotiations” would be needed to ensure states implement the levy “faithfully”.
“Perhaps the greatest threat to Africa’s peace and security is the very rapid rate of population growth,” Mahama cautioned. “Africa’s unbridled population growth is likened to a slowing train, it will cover some distance before it finally comes to a stop.” On 20 April, Mahama made similar points in a public lecture at Bahir Dar University on the topic of ‘Self-Reliance in Africa’s Peace and Security’.
The Tana Forum is an informal, high-level platform for African decision makers, experts, partners and youth representatives to discuss and explore African-led solutions to peace and security in Africa. An outcomes report will be released in the coming days detailing the nature of discussions on this theme. To view photos from the Forum, visit our Flickr page: public lecture, day 1 and day 2.
Michelle Mendi Muita
Coordinator, Communications and Profile Management
Tana Forum Secretariat
Institute for Peace and Security Studies, Addis Ababa University
T: +251 929 169 936