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Building a Secure and Peaceful Continent

Excerpts from the 4th Tana High Level Forum on Security in Africa

Prof. Akindes H.E. Haile Menkerios Head, United Nations Office to the African Union and Special Representative to the African Union, H.E. Lakhdar Brahimi, former UN Peace Envoy to Syria and Cheikh Rachid al–Ghannoushi, Muslim Scholar

The 4th Tana High Level Forum on Security in Africa took place in Bahir Dar City, Ethiopia from the 18th to 19th of April, 2015. It assembled Heads of states, civil society and religious leaders, representatives from academia, policy makers and various stakeholders to address trends and threats to security in Africa. The forum was hosted by the Institute of Peace and Security Studies of Addis Ababa University.

Since its maiden edition in 2012, the annual Tana High Level Forum on Security in Africa has provided a conducive environment for leaders from all sectors of society to examine and debate peace and security challenges facing the African continent. The theme for this year’s forum was "Secularism and Politicised Faith”

The official concept summary of the forum stated, "It is a paradox of our time that the rise in secularism in some parts of the world coincides with the rise of religious extremism in some others. In Africa, the manipulation of religious teachings to meet political ends, address grievances, recruit disenchanted youth that disrupt societal harmony or widen existing tensions is on the rise as seen in Central African Republic, Egypt, Ethiopia, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, and Sudan.” It is against this backdrop that the forum was organized. 

From left: President Museveni; PM Hailemariam Desalegn; President Paul Kagame; President Uhuru Kenyatta

Among the panelists and prominent delegates in attendance at the Forum were H.E. Hailemariam Desalegn, Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia,H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria and Chairperson of the Tana Forum, H.E. Benjamin Mkapa, Former President of Tanzania. 

Others included His Highness Mohammad Sanusi, Emir of Kano, Amina Mama, Professor in Women and Gender Studies (University of California, USA) and Lakhdar Brahimi, former United Nations Peace Envoy to Syria, France. Benjamin Kweku Nettey Larbi, a technical assistant at Regent Ghana and member of the African Union Youth Working Group, served as an expert participant at the forum.

In his welcome speech, H.E. Hailemariam Desalegn, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia observed that at a time when countries in Africa had began to achieve rapid economic growth; many parts of the continent were going through a series of crises. He attributed these crises to “the blurred boundary line between legitimate exercise of religious freedom and a propensity to politicise faith in a manner that has rendered secular political order vulnerable.” 

The Prime Minister further observed that the activities of terrorist networks that had led to the killing of thousands in the name of religious orthodoxy were threatening democratic experiments being conducted across the continent, as well as rendering states ungovernable.

“The complex religious, ethnic and linguistic diversities in Africa coupled with the relatively weak nature of institutions in the continent have made the threat resulting from lack of clarity on both issues even more destructive”, he added. 

He expressed hope that fora such as the Tana Forum would help build consensus on how democratic and human rights of all citizens can be protected irrespective of their creed or faith or economic background.” 

"Whether or not we are capable of stemming the tide of terrorism and violent extremism of any stripe in Africa is the difference between a continent that reverts back to lawlessness and chaos on one hand and sustaining the positive progress Africa has been making in the areas of economic development and good governance" he stressed. 

The State of Peace and Security in Africa: 

Former President of Nigeria and Tana Forum Board Chairperson, Olusegun Obasanjo delivering his annual State of Peace and Security in Africa

Delivering an address on “The State of Peace and Security in Africa”; His Excellency Olusegun Obasanjo highlighted some current threats to peace and security in Africa. Some of the threats he identified were poverty, corruption, irregular migration and transnational organised crimes. 

Touching on elections, the former President stated that the peace and security landscape in Africa, is being increasingly threatened by developments before, during, and after elections. “To what extent are elections bringing the type of meaningful political, social and economic change desirable to ordinary citizens? I ask because we are seeing evidence of disconnection between the high demands for democracy verses the low supply of democracy by political elites”, he said. 

Speaking on Migration, H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo emphasised the need for the identification of push factors that has led to the recent wave of forced migration involving able-bodied men and women crossing the Sahara Desert and the turbulent Mediterranean Seas to enter Europe. 

Addressing the issue of transnational organised crime, the former President stressed on the need for vigilance, as well as the need to interrogate the motives and modes of operations of terrorist organisations and crime groups, to be able to checkmate their activities. 

“We are delighted that this year’s theme "Secularism and Politicised Faith" has moved beyond a topic that generates news headlines around the world to a topic where participants have identified a common problem and discussed ways of tackling it”, Elshadai Negash, Communications Manager for the Forum said. "This has led to insightful discussions that have generated interest among participants, as well as the peace and security community on social media. We believe this is a good start”, he added. 

“It was an insightful experience hearing from distinguished delegates with significant firsthand experience handling real life security issues in their line of work” Benjamin Larbi said. “As a delegate and youth representative, I did my best to highlight the need to involve young Africans in peace building and security-related activities and discussions in Africa.” he added. 

Selected Tana Forum delegates in a group photo with the Former President of Nigeria. (From Right: Benjamin K.N. Larbi, Collins Etchi Ako, H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo, Melvis Ndiloseh and friend)

"I am grateful to the organizers of the forum for the invitation and for creating the space for young people such as myself to participate in this High Level Forum”. "I am positive that platforms such as the Tana forum, will help promote a deeper understanding of the nature, and causes of security threats, and would thus serve as a foundation for the finding of long-lasting solutions to these threats.” 

The 4th Tana High Level Forum on security in Africa was supported by the Government of Ethiopia, African Union Commission, Ethiopian Airlines, The Brenthurst Foundation, Austrian Development Cooperation, Blue Nile Resort Hotels and Amhara Regional state.

Read more about the Tana High Level Forum here.