About the Forum

Frank, relevant and candid dialogue is fundamental to resolving conflict and transforming societies. The Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa is an annual meeting that brings together African leaders and stakeholders to engage and explore African-led security solutions.

The Forum complements formal meetings of African heads of state and government by assembling them in an informal, collaborative environment. In the spirit of gatherings 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. 

The Tana Forum promotes African-led solutions by holding discussions on the strategic and pro-active management of African peace and security issues driven by the interest to contribute to stronger ownership of these issues.

From the seating arrangements to the dress code, the informal nature of the Forum enables participants to get to the heart of the issue at hand, a truly unique experience for high-level dialogue. Olusegun Obasanjo, Forum Chairperson and former President of Nigeria, famously removes his boubou at the start of the Forum as a gesture to participants to “ditch the tie and roll up your sleeves“

Furthermore, the Forum is immersive in that it combines the worlds of academia and research with real-world, real-time experience. The result is an action-oriented and policy-relevant discussion.

5 Reasons why you should know about the Tana Forum

  • Frank, relevant and candid: The Tana Forum is at the forefront of initiating dialogue among the continent’s foremost policymakers and policy influencers on pressing peace and security challenges.
  • Immersive: We combine the worlds of academia and research with real world experiences. Each Forum is preceded by research on the theme of the year and on the state of peace and security in Africa, resulting in an action-oriented and policy-relevant discussion.
  • Informal: Thought leaders from varying backgrounds and professions gather under the baobab tree (depicted in our logo) to talk to and with each other. The baobab is relevant to Tana through its symbolism of dialogue as it invites participants to sit down in a spirit of commonality and moral duty towards finding solutions in peace and security for the continent.
  • Location: The Tana Forum takes place in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia – a relaxing town located on the shores of Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile River.
  • Access: Both participants and interested viewers who want to follow the Forum’s discussion are only a click away – we provide live updates in French and English on our desktop, mobile and tablet-friendly platforms, including our online app, website and social media pages. Visit www.tanaforum.org for more information.

Our Identity

The centrepiece of the Tana experience is the baobab tree. The common name of trees known as Adansonia, the baobab is the national tree of Madagascar and is located in many African countries. Known as the tree of life, it can provide shelter, clothing, food, and water for the animal and human inhabitants of the African savannah regions. The trees reach heights of 5-30m and trunk diameters of 7-11m. Its trunk can hold up to 120,000ltrs of water. For most of the year, the tree is leafless, and looks very much like it has its roots sticking up in the air.

Wisdom is like a baobab tree; no one individual can embrace it.“ Akan and Ewe proverb (Benin, Ghana and Togo)

The baobab is relevant to Tana through its symbolism of dialogue as it invites participants to sit down in a spirit of commonality and moral duty towards finding solutions in peace and security for the continent. The baobab tree adorns the main stage of the forum where heads of state, policy makers, and academics seat to discuss pressing issues on peace and security in Africa.

About Bahir Dar

In addition to the baobab, the forum’s venue is also a key part of its unique identity. The forum is held every year on the shores of Lake Tana, the largest highland lake in Ethiopia and the fourth largest in Africa, which bears its name. Source of the Blue Nile, Tana has more than 21 islands and gives the forum’s host city Bahir Dar its picturesque backdrop as one of Ethiopia’s top touristic destinations.

Who’s Involved


H.E. John Dramani Mahama, Former President of Ghana and Tana Forum Board Chairperson

H.E. John Dramani Mahama is the former President of the Republic of Ghana (2012-2016) and Chairperson of the Tana Forum Board. Mahama first entered into politics in 1996 when he joined the National Democratic Congress and was elected to Parliament. From there, he climbed the political ranks, starting with his appointment as Deputy Minister in Communications in 1997, followed by Minister of Communications in 1998. He was appointed as Minority Parliamentary spokesperson for Communications in 2001 and for Foreign Affairs in 2005. He was also a member of the Pan-African Parliament and Chairman of the West Africa Caucus based in South Africa from 2004 to 2011. On 7 January 2009, John Dramani Mahama became the Vice-President of Ghana, remaining in the post until President John Atta Mills’ untimely death on 24 July 2012, when, in line with Ghana’s Constitution, he became President of the Republic. Outside of national politics, in 2014 he was elected Chairperson of the African Union’s High-Level African Trade Committee (HATC) and also head of the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS). In 2016, during the World Economic Forum, Mahama was appointed co-chair of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Advocates Group assisting the UN Secretary-General in the campaign to achieve the SDGs by 2030, and in 2017, Mahama presided over the ECOWAS Election Observation Mission to Liberia as head of mission.

H.E. Hailemariam Desalegn, Former Prime Minister, Ethiopia

Hailemariam Desalegn is an Ethiopian politician who served as the Prime Minister of Ethiopia from 2012 to 2018. He also previously served as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs under Prime Minister Meles Zenawi from 2010 to 2012, whom succeeded as Prime Minister, initially in an acting capacity. He was then elected as the Chair of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), the ruling party, on 15 September 2012. Hailemariam also served as the Chairperson of the African Union from 2013 to 2014.

H.E. Catherine Samba-Panza, former interim President, Central Africa Republic

Catherine Samba-Panza was interim President of the Central African Republic from 2014 to 2016. She was the first woman to hold the post of head of state, and the eighth woman in Africa to do so. Prior to becoming head of state, she was Mayor of Bangui from 2013 to 2014.

H.E. Dr. Joyce Banda, Former President of Malawi

H.E. Dr. Joyce Banda is President of the Joyce Banda Foundation and the former President of Malawi from 2012 to 2014. Dr. Banda was Malawi’s first female president and Africa’s second. An entrepreneur, activist, politician and philanthropist, Dr. Banda is a champion for the rights of women, children, the disabled, and other marginalised groups. She is a recipient of more than 15 international accolades including the 1997 “Hunger Project Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger” shared with President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique.

Amb. Lakhdar Brahimi, Former UN and Arab League Special Envoy to Syria

Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi is the former United Nations and Arab League Special Envoy to Syria. He is also a member of The Elders, a group of world leaders working for global peace formed in 2007 at the initiative of late President Mandela. Amb. Brahimi also served as a Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General (2004-2005), Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (2001-2004), and Under-Secretary-General for Special Assignments in Support of the Secretary-General’s Preventive and Peacemaking efforts. Amb. Brahimi has also held several national posts in his home country, serving as Foreign Minister, Diplomatic Adviser to the President of Algeria, Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Egypt and the Sudan, and Permanent Representative to the Arab League in Cairo.

H.E. Temesgen Tiruneh, Director General, Information Network Security Agency (INSA) and National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Temesgen Tiruneh was appointed in April 2018 as Director General of the Information Network Security Agency (INSA). He is also the National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia.

H.E. Hirut Zemene, State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Hirut Zemene is the current State Minister for Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ethiopia. She is a career diplomat who has served in various capacities in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia.

Dr. Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary, Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), Austria/Burkina Faso

Lassina Zerbo is the Executive Secretary of the CTBTO, a position which he assumed on 1 August 2013. He previously served as Director of the organization’s International Data Centre (IDC). He is a national of Burkina Faso. 

Mr. Alain Foka, Journalist, Radio France International, France/Cameroon

Alain Foka is a Cameroonian journalist, who has covered several conflict zones, notably Rwanda in 1994, Congo in 1997 and 1998 and Somalia in 1998. He previously worked for Radio France Internationale, producing numerous magazines on African contemporary history and debates, with a circulation of more than 70,000 copies. Alain Foka has also produced documentaries under the banner of the Phoenix Productions, a company he founded in 1992. Recognised by his peers for his professionalism, Foka’s career has repeatedly been recognised, including receiving awards for Best African Journalist of the Year in 1999 and 2008 respectively. The New African Magazine recently cited him as part of the 50 most prominent African intellectuals.

Prof. Patrick Loch Otieno Lumumba, former Director, Kenya School of Law

Patrick Loch Otieno Lumumba is a Kenyan who served as the Director of Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission from September 2010 to August 2011 and the Director of The Kenya School of Laws from 2014 to 2017. An eloquent lawyer, he holds a PhD in Laws of the Sea from the University of Ghent in Belgium.

The Role of the Board

The Board of the Tana Forum provides both strategic oversights on the Forum as an institution and decides on the each Forum‘s broad agenda and participation. It is comprised of eminent African personalities who have demonstrated leadership, inspiration and experience in their fields of endeavour. The membership of the Board shall demonstrate regional, gender, intergenerational and cross-sectoral representation.

Given its key role, it is important that the Board be technically and politically sound to ensure a holistic and integrated leadership of the Tana Forum. In this regard, a number of the members have practical experiences in addressing peace and security issues, namely former Presidents John Dramani Mahama of Ghana and Joyce Banda of Malawi. These personalities have political and practical experience in conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction at national or regional levels and will be able, through their networks in Africa and globally, to steer the Forum in the right direction.

As already acknowledged by the African Union, peace and security have gendered implications. It is therefore critical that the Tana Forum Board be guided by input from people who support and promote gender dimensions and balance. Members such as Ambassador Soad M. Shalaby will be able to keep the direction of the Tana Forum grounded in grassroots/community realities based on their experiences and research in the area of peace of security, as highlighted by the Tripoli Declaration (2010).

The academic sector is important in ensuring that future perspectives are brought to bear on the work of the Tana Forum. Individuals like Professor Souleymane Bachir Diagne will help fill this gap. The importance of the media is reflected in the selection of Alain Foka, the producer of “Memories of the Continent“ and an Award-winning journalist.

Another dimension which is important for the Tana Forum is a good understanding of the institutional dynamics, both on the continent and nationally, and how these impact on peace and security prospects. Board members such as Ambassador Berhane Gebre-Christos, Professor Lakhdar Brahimi and Professor Hashim Tewfik, with their vast experiences in these areas, will continue to serve as valuable assets to the Forum.

Technical Committee

The Technical Committee advises the Tana Secretariat on the organization of the Forum. In particular, the Technical Committee aims to advise the Secretariat on procedure and content to strengthen the Forum’s capacity to generate fruitful discussions and give participants a meaningful experience. Learn more about the members of the Committee. The current members of the Technical Committee are:

Dr. Hesphina Rukato (Chair) – Zimbabwe – Development consultant and Board for Great Dyke (July 2016-June 2019).

Mr. Alex Ratebaye Tordeta (Deputy Chair) – Chad – Deputy Chief of Staff, African Union Commission (August 2018-July 2021).

Prof. Timothy Murithi – South Africa/Kenya – Head of the Justice and Reconciliation in Africa Programme at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (July 2016-June 2019).

Dr. Noha Bakr – Egypt – Professor Adjunct Faculty, Political Science Department at the American University in Cairo (July 2016-June 2019).

Dr. iur Mehari Taddele Maru – Ethiopia – International Consultant on African Union affairs, and a Research Fellow at the NATO Defense College (August 2018-July 2021).

Ms. Semiha Adbdulmelik – Ethiopia – Senior Political Affairs Officer, Peace and Security Department, African Union Commission (August 2018-July 2021).

Ms. Haja Saramba Kandeh – Sierra Leone – Legal and Gender Associate, AIDS-Free World (August 2018-July 2021).

Ms. Michelle Ndiaye (Ex-Officio) – Senegal – Director, Africa Peace and Security Programme, Institute for Peace and Security Studies and Head of the Tana Forum Secretariat.

Forum Secretariat

The Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS) of Addis Ababa University acts as the Forum’s Secretariat. Parallel to the Forum and hosting its Secretariat, IPSS runs the Africa Peace and Security Programme (APSP), a joint project with the African Union.

APSP aims to build African capacities to develop and implement African-led solutions in peace and security in Africa. In this context, the outcomes of the Forum will inform the Institute’s activities in education, research and policy dialogues. This will further contribute to creating a platform where ideas and synergies on African-centred solutions in peace and security can converge with wider objectives to inform decision-making, policy formulation and implementation at the African Union (AU), Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and Regional Mechanisms (RMs).

Former Board Members

  • H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Federal Republic of Nigeria (former Chairperson)
  • H.E. Thabo Mbeki, former President of the Republic of South Africa
  • H.E. Pierre Buyoya, former President of the Republic of Burundi
  • Prof. Andreas Eshete, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister with the rank of a Minister, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (former Deputy Chairperson)
  • Dr. Tedros Adhanom, Director General, World Health Organization and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
  • Prof. Ndioro Ndiaye, former Minister for Social Development/former Minister for Women’s, Children’s and Family Affairs, Republic of Senegal
  • H.E. Betty Bigombe, former State Minister of Water Resources, Republic of Uganda and former Director of Fragility, Conflict and Violence, World Bank
  • Dr. ‘Funmi Olonisakin, Vice President/Principal (International), King’s College London and Founding Director, African Leadership Centre
  • Prof. Mahmood Mamdani, Executive Director, Makerere Institute of Social Research, Uganda
  • Amb. Mohamed Sahnoun, Initiatives at Changement International

Former Technical Committee Members

  • Dr. Baylie Damtie, PhD, former President of Bahir Dar University, Ethiopia.
  • Dr. Martha Mutisi, International Development Research Centre, Kenya.
  • Dr. Melvis Mbinohonyui, Department of International Law, Institute of International Relations, University of Yaoundé 1, Cameroon.
  • Dr. Tassew Woldehanna, Vice President for Research and Technology Transfer/Associate Professor of Economics, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia.
  • Ms. Raheemat Momodu, Head of the ECOWAS Liaison Office to the African Union.
  • Mr. Abdul Mohamed, Chief of Staff and Senior Political Advisor of the AU High Level Implementation Panel for Sudan and South Sudan.
  • Prof. Alex de Waal, Executive Director of the World Peace Foundation at the Fletcher School, Tufts University, USA.
  • Dr. Alhaji Sarjoh Bah, Head of the Crisis Management and Psot Conflict Reconstruction Division, AU Commission.
  • Mr. Charles Akelyira Abugre, Development economist, Ghana.
  • Dr. Khabele Matlosa, Director of the Department of Political Affairs, AU Commission.
  • Mr. Markus Koerner, Managing Partner, African Crossroads, Germany.
  • Prof. Charles Ukeje, Department of International Relations at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria.
  • Dr. Martha Cumbi, Economist.
  • Dr. Rahel Kassahun, Founder and CEO, Africa Unbound, Ethiopia.
  • Prof. Sheila Bunwaree, Former Director, Research Department of the Council of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), Senegal.
  • Mr. El-Ghassim Wane, Chief of Staff, African Union Commission.
  • Prof. Alioune Sall, Founder and Executive Director of the African Futures Institute, a Pan-African think-tank established in 2004 and specialized in foresight exercises, research and capacity development.
  • Dr. Cedric de Coning, Senior Researcher with the Peace Operations and Peacebuilding Research Group at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) and a Senior Advisor on Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding for ACCORD.
  • Dr. Solomon Dersso, PhD, Senior Analyst, Peace and Security / Commissioner, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), Ethiopia.
  • Dr. Theo Sowa, CEO, African Women’s Development Fund, Ghana.

Tana Forum Partners

Key Partners

Media Partners

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

What is the Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa?

The Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa is an annual forum that brings together leadership from all sectors to work on an African-led security agenda. It takes place each April in Bahir Dar, on the shores of Lake Tana, Ethiopia. The Forum is a response to the call by African Heads of State and Government for the elaboration of “African-centred solutions“ in the prevention, management and resolution of conflict in the August 2009 Tripoli Declaration on the Elimination of Conflicts in Africa and the Promotion of Sustainable Peace.

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