On 15 February, the Tana Forum, in partnership with the African Union, hosted a side event at the Munich Security Conference (MSC) on “Peace and Integration in the Horn of Africa”. Featured speakers included H.E. John Dramani Mahama, former President of Ghana and Chairperson of the Tana Forum Board; Mr. Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations and Ambassador Smail Chergui, the African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security.

The 23 distinguished participants included Hon. Muferiat Kamal, the Ethiopian Minister of Peace; H.E. Alpha Barry, Minister of Foreign Affairs from Burkina Faso; Mr. Robert Malley, President and Chief Executive Officer of the International Crisis Group; Dr. Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary of CTBTO; and Dr. Christoph Beier, Managing Director of the German Corporation for International Cooperation/Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.

The discussion highlighted the complex and interlinked challenges the Horn of Africa is currently facing. These include climate change, transnational organized crime, terrorism, violent extremism and maritime insecurity among others. These issues are mostly cross-border in nature and hence impact not only the security of the region but also affect Europe, the Middle East and the rest of the world. Comprehensive regional or at times international responses are needed to tackle them, as they cannot be addressed by individual nation states alone.

Despite these challenges, most experts agreed, the winds are changing in the Horn as relations between many countries in the region are improving. The renewed relationship between Ethiopia and Eritrea was mentioned as a particularly positive example. According to one expert, this bold move has already had visible ripple effects on the region, and more action along these lines should be encouraged. Regional actors, the AU and the international community need to work together to make sure this unity of purpose is maintained and strengthened. In addition, it is important to further promote good neighbourliness and regional integration, including the freedom of movement.

Participants also pointed to South Sudan’s recently revitalized peace agreement as a sign of welcome change. Yet they also emphasized that much more needs to be done to further establish peace. In order to address the dire humanitarian situation in the country and the issue of large-scale displacement, the agreement needs to be implemented on the ground, especially with regard to its security arrangements. 

The experts also touched on the role of AU interventions. The organization was commended for a number of successful undertakings such as its recent role in the Central African Republic’s peace negotiations in Khartoum, Sudan, which again showed a clear unity of purpose. However, complex challenges remain particularly in the Sahel region, particularly the actions of external interferences who pose a hindrance to peace in the Sahel and the overall issue of increasing militarization.

Also mentioned was the ongoing structural reform process at the UN, which is broadening the organization’s perspectives on peace through its new peace and security architecture. This will enable the UN to offer effective support in the development of AU, RECs and Member State institutions in the area of peace and security. The discussion also commended the ongoing conversations between the UN, AU and European Union (EU) in light of the need for strong multilateral cooperation.

The need for strong empowerment of African states and their ownership of issues in the region as a prerequisite for peace and stability was highlighted as a critical issue. The annual Tana Forum was mentioned by participants as an important space for conversation on African peace and security issues. They underlined that its outcomes influence policymaking on the national, regional and continental levels.

This year, the 8th Tana Forum will take place on 4-5 May 2019 in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. The Forum enables engagement between different actors, promotes frank discussions, and offers a platform for the generation of new ideas that strongly inspire and influence dialogue. Approximately 200 participants – comprised of heads of state and government, experts and practitioners of peace and security in Horn – will delve into the topic of “Political Dynamics in the Horn of Africa: Nurturing the Emerging Peace Trends.”

The Tana Forum delegation at the MSC was composed of President Mahama, Dr. Kidane Kiros and Ms. Michelle Ndiaye. The delegation also attended two side events, the first organized by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on “Cooperation or Competition? How to Build Regional Security in Africa (or Not)”. The second side event was jointly organized by the German Federal Foreign Office and the Global Public Policy Institute on “The Art of Crisis Prevention”. Furthermore, President Mahama and Ms. Ndiaye met with the Fatou Bensouda, the International Criminal Court’s Chief Prosecutor.