2019 Theme

The 8th Tana Forum, taking place from 4th to 5th May in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, will discuss the theme of: “Political Dynamics in the Horn of Africa: Nurturing the Emerging Peace Trends”.

In line with recent political developments in the Horn of Africa and the remarkable rapprochement between Ethiopia and Eritrea to address the border conflict through negotiation, this year’s Tana Forum will deliberate on ways to support the political dynamics and pertinent geopolitical matters unfolding in the region.

The Forum complements formal meetings of African heads of state and government by gathering them in an informal, collaborative environment. In the spirit of discussions taking place under the Baobab tree, the Forum offers room and space for panel discussions, interaction with the floor and bilateral talks to share views and experiences in a time efficient, result-oriented and open manner.

Summary on the theme

National and regional stability in the Horn of Africa serve as vital components of the sustainable development objectives across the region. Faced with myriad challenges relating to weak governance and state institutions, porous and contested national boundaries, slowing economic growth, and an increasingly tense scramble for resources by major powers, the political and security fault-lines in the Horn of Africa have become both a barrier to nation-building, as well as a source of acute security apprehensions. These issues are also affecting political trajectories in the region and dimming the prospects for robust regional integration.

In line with recent political developments in the Horn of Africa, especially the surprising rapprochement between Ethiopia and Eritrea following almost two decades of violent conflict. This year’s Tana Forum will deliberate on:
• Inter-state engagements in the Horn and efforts to establish peace and cooperation;
• The role of state and non-state external actors in reshaping national and regional security;
• The alternative futures for the region in light of the events currently unfolding in the region.

The Horn of Africa: A paradigm shift?
The unexpected cessation of hostilities between Eritrea and Ethiopia, and the subsequent signing of the Joint Declaration on Peace and Friendship on 9 July 2018, quickly generated worldwide praise. Despite few concerns, there is generally a great deal of enthusiasm that the rapprochement will deliver on “peace, cooperation and development” far beyond improved relations between the two states (Ylönen, 2019). Significantly, the dialogue that brought this new development is a pointer to how much the mobilization of political will, in the face of centrifugal pressures pulling in different directions, could go towards achieving positive and durable peace.

The peace deal itself, combined with the ongoing reforms in Ethiopia, the regional powerhouse of the Horn of Africa, will potentially have a multiplier effect across the region. Apart from the deal encouraging the United Nations (UN) to unanimously lift its longstanding sanctions on Eritrea, one tangible result is Eritrea’s recent overtures to normalize relations with Djibouti and Somalia which, if successful, will erase long-drawn suspicions and reset trade and economic cooperation in the Horn. With Eritrea now emerging from decades of international isolation, Asmara is expected to play an active role in both the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the African Union (AU).

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Concept Note

Introduction: Concept and Origin

With the aim of playing a crucial role in bringing about sustainable peace and contributing to the implementation of the African Union Tripoli Declaration of August 2009, the Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS) at Addis Ababa University convenes an annual forum on security called the Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa, or Tana Forum in short. This initiative is a response to the declaration’s appeal for “African-centred solutions”, and its call for the treatment of peace and security as a collective “intellectual challenge”.

As a result, the annual Tana Forum emerged as an independent platform initiated by IPSS and eminent African personalities, including Meles Zenawi, the late Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. The Forum is an informal gathering of African decision-makers, peace and security stakeholder groups, and their larger constituencies for an open discussion of security issues and challenges faced by the continent.

Overall and specific objectives

The overall objective of the Tana Forum is to facilitate a platform where African peace and security issues are discussed and followed up by African decision-makers and peace and security stakeholder groups in an open and unceremonious setting. Specifically, the Forum aims at:

  • Providing opportunities to decision-making leaders and institutions to exchange experiences and insights on peace and security issues among themselves with a view to taking home inspiration and practical lessons;
  • Giving opportunities to political decision-makers to interact and consult with a broad-based African constituency as well as with key global actors;
  • Contributing to a substantive African open debate on peace and security issues of key and strategic importance to the continent and its regional institutions;
  • Communicating with and listening to “profound African voices on the ground” on various dimensions and components of peace and security on the continent, thus facilitating an inclusive dialogue among governments and other African security stakeholder groups;
  • Sensitizing and mobilizing other stakeholders, actors and the overall African opinion for larger ownership of Africa-owned solutions on peace and security.

Download the full document here.

Pre-forum Activities

Public Lecture/Vice Chancellor’s Dialogue

The annual Public Lecture/Vice Chancellor’s Dialogue at Bahir Dar University are pre-forum events jointly organized by the Forum Secretariat and Bahir Dar University featuring prominent African experts from universities across the continent. Universities are ideal platforms to actively engage the youth on peace and security issues on the continent. The lecture/debate offers a unique opportunity for students to interact and consult with a broad-based constituency, including with the wider research and academic community.

Annual University Essay Competition

The Tana Forum Annual University Essay Competition is one of a series of pre-forum activities organized by the Secretariat aimed at facilitating discussions on the theme of the year. This year’s theme, “Political Dynamics in the Horn of Africa: Securing the Emerging Peace Trend”, reflects the urgent need to discuss, debate and establish a thorough understanding of the principle of ownership by the AU in delivering its mandate, particularly in the peace and security landscape.

Now in its fifth year, the annual essay competition is further aimed at obtaining views from the youth on various peace and security challenges faced across the continent. The competition is open to African nationals enrolled in higher education institutions based in Africa and the diaspora.

The Tana Forum, in collaboration with Bahir Dar University, organizes a public lecture on the eve of the Forum in order to involve young people in the Forum. Universities are ideal platforms to actively engage the young generation on peace and security issues on the continent as they will become future leaders, policy and decisionmakers, and researchers.

Ambassadors’ Briefing and Press Conference

Each year, diplomatic representatives from various embassies in Addis Ababa attend the annual Ambassadors’ Briefing held in preparation of the Tana Forum. This is an opportunity for diplomats to inform themselves of the content and protocol of the year’s Forum, as well as communicate to their home countries the significance of the issues that will be discussed at the Forum.

A press conference is organized every year to engage with local, regional and international journalists based in Addis Ababa. The Tana Forum Secretariat briefs the media on the year’s theme, expected participants, and instructions on how apply to cover the Forum.

Multi-Stakeholder Pre-Forum

The main objective of the multi-stakeholder pre-forum is to draw attention to the current peace and security agenda in Africa, deepen policymakers’ understanding in this area, and encourage them to implement agreed-upon policies in their respective countries or region (“from policy to practice”). The aim of the meeting is to make open, critical and substantive contributions to the theme from a policy and technical level perspective.

Multi-Stakeholder Post-Forum

The objective of the annual Tana Post-Forum is to review, discuss and provide further thought to the theme of the year with the aim of generating new policy recommendations and initiating plans of action.

From 18 to 19 July 2018, over 50 experts, drawn from Member States (MS), the African Union (AU), Regional Economic Communities (RECs), embassies accredited to the Republic of Botswana, development partners, civil society organizations (CSOs), academia, and think tanks from across Africa, US and Europe met in Gaborone, Botswana to discuss: “The Content and Shape of the Peace and Security Agenda in the Post-Reform Era: Reflections from the 7th Tana Forum”.

The post-forum was jointly organized with the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and took place in Gaborone, Botswana.

Experts Workshop

The Tana Forum Secretariat organizes an annual Experts Workshop to review analyze documents produced for the Forum. The workshop brings together experts from across the continent to provide input on documents that will guide the Forum discussion, such as the annual State of Peace and Security in Africa (SPSA) report and Tana Policy Papers, both of which are specially published for the Forum each year.

Youth Engagement

Participation of young people in policy-making is critical to the maintenance and strengthening of democracy. The Tana Forum strives to provide a platform for young Africans through an annual youth engagement and mobilization platform that takes the form of a debate or discussion on pertinent issues affecting young Africans.

Key Events

Meles Zenawi Lecture Series

As per the tradition of the Tana Forum, the annual Meles Zenawi Lecture pays tribute to a prominent African leader. In 2019, the lecture will pay tribute to the late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, a South African anti-apartheid activist and politician.

Born in September 1936, the life of Madikizela-Mandela encompassed commitments to community upliftment, opposition to apartheid and determination to build a non-racist, non-sexist and democratic South Africa.


Previous Meles Zenawi Lectures have discussed the following leaders:

  • 2nd Tana Forum: Lecture on Meles Zenawi delivered by Professor Andreas Eshete (2013)
  • 3rd Tana Forum: Lecture on Nelson Mandela delivered by Adebayo Olukoshi (2014)
  • 4thTana Forum: Lecture on Kwame Nkrumah delivered by Ali Mufuruki (2015)
  • 5th Tana Forum: Lecture on Patrice Lumumba delivered by Elikia M’Bokolo (2016)
  • 6th Tana Forum: Lecture on Wangari Mathaai delivered by Akere T. Muna (2017)
  • 7th Tana Forum: Lecture on Abdel Nasser delivered by Samia Nkrumah (2018)

State of Peace and Security in Africa

This State of Peace and Security in Africa (SPSA) report is a background paper prepared annually for the Tana Forum. It provides contextual information that informs the nature and quality of debate on peace and security issues. It also sets the stage, guides the conversation, and ultimately helps in shaping the debate around the theme of the year.

Presented annually during the opening ceremony, the report also offers a panoramic view of the African security landscape by assessing the factors of insecurity associated with the theme of the year and indicating the current trends and crosscutting issues causing insecurity for citizens across the continent.

The SPSA Report is expected to provide a succinct overview and analysis of the most salient conflict trends and offer a nuanced understanding of the efforts and responses that are designed to manage complex peace and security challenges on the continent.

Annual Book Launch

One of the key activities of the Tana Forum is the Annual Book Launch, where published authors – both African and non-African – have the opportunity to present their books on peace, security, governance or development.

The Forum provides an opportunity for authors to present their books to the Forum’s participants, a diverse gathering of African heads of state and government, decision-makers at the AU, UN and other international organizations, academia and members of civil society.


For the 7th Tana Forum in 2018, the selected book was “New Fringe Pastoralism: Conflict, Security and Development in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel” published by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

The first book launch for the 6th Tana Forum in 2017, the selected book was “Making Africa Work”, published by President Olusegun Obasanjo, Greg Mills, Dickie Davis and Jeffrey Herbst.

For the 8th Tana Forum, set to take place on 4-5 May 2019, interested authors are invited to submit their book proposals to the Tana Forum Secretariat. Authors should submit the following to tanaforum@ipss-addis.org before 28 February 2019:

  • An expression of interest stating: the title of book, publication date and edition, language, and significance to the Forum;
  • Abstract (max 500 words);
  • Author(s) biography and;
  • CV

Submissions will be reviewed by a committee consisting of internal and external reviewers. Shortlisted authors will be asked to submit the full text of the book in soft copy. The copy will not be distributed beyond the review committee. Only one book will be featured at the launch.

Side Events

A number of activities will take place on Friday, 3 May 2019, on the eve of the 8th Tana Forum. Attendance is only open to participants attending the Tana Forum. 

    16.30-18.00 Pre-forum event in collaboration with Bahir Dar University

    19.00-20.30 Welcome events

    20.45-22.45 Lakeside events

    Forum Documents

    Tana Papers 2019


    The Horn of Africa has experienced remarkable developments in peace in 2018. The no-peace-no-war deadlock between Ethiopia and Eritrea was broken after the Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed came to power in April 2018 and approached the Eritrea’s leader Isaias Afwerki in July 2018. Following the peace deal between the two former adversaries, Eritrea and Djibouti also agreed to resolve their border disputes through peaceful mechanisms. Furthermore, these peace deals led to a tripartite collaboration between Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia. Analysts point out that the peace deals are not only inter-state collaborations but also contribute to intra-state stability in the individual countries.

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      State of Peace and Security in Africa 2019

      In any particular year and on any particular issue, events and developments across Africa tend to evoke multiple and contrasting impulses. Due to its own making or by default, , the continent routinely experiences brief spells of progress and then longer, often intractable cycles of challenges that could be misconstrued as its dominant narrative. Either way, the complexity of peace and security issues the continent contends with on regular basis end up defining not just how it is viewed by its citizens and outsiders, but also its status in world affairs.

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