Concept Note

The Context

This year (2021) marks the 10th Anniversary of the Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa, the flagship annual event to engage in deep reflections to find solutions to the continent’s myriad peace and security challenges. It coincides with a unique moment in Africa and the world primarily due to the fragilities imposed by the unforeseen outbreak and spread of the Covid-19 pandemic and state measures to curb it. While old fault lines remain, new ones are producing tensions and threats that are converging within- rather than outside- states in a way that is exposing the underbelly of fractured state-society relations.

The signals of threats to peace and security across the African landscape are evident in the weakening of critical public institutions, the resurgence of ethnoreligious and other parochial identities, and the proliferation of actors and risks in ways previously not contemplated. Yet even at that, the prevailing cloud of uncertainty provides the opportunity to think deeply and act decisively to confront such triggers and enablers of today’s insecurities. Understanding Africa’s security threats today also requires rethinking the role of actors and initiatives at national, regional and continental levels and that of international partners in soliciting solutions.

The Focus

The starting point of this 10th Tana Forum is to give primacy to African citizens in the discourse on security and resilience across multiple political, economic and social spaces. The overarching goal is to explore issues at the intersection of building a people-enabled peace, security and resilience in line with the African Union theme of the year: “Arts, Culture and Heritage.” Alongside taking stock of the evolution of threats to peace and security challenges on the continent, the focus will be on mobilizing and building the type of home-grown and local resilience that allows the voice and agency of African citizens to blossom.

To do otherwise is to weaken the resolve and capacity of African citizens to face and defeat threats associated with terrorism, violent extremism and transnational organized criminality that now feature prominently- and dangerously- across the continents security landscape. From the Horn of Africa and across the Sahel arc, and from the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC to the Central Africa Republic and Mozambique, there is a sense in which Africa risks becoming the new epicentre of terrorism in the world. There is palpable concern over the growing threat of terrorism either undermining or overwhelming the coping and resilience capacity of the state in ways that put a great number of people at risk. Coupled with this is the phenomenon of extreme violence and transnational organized crime, both of which have been further entrenched and exploited by criminal networks and non-state armed groups under the prevailing conditions necessitated by the Covid-19 pandemic and consequent lockdown. The most telling fallout from this chain of threats is the weakness and inability of the state to respond effectively.

Added to this is that these insecurities have become the most important driving factor for the continuous displacement of people within and across borders and the accentuation of human rights violations in these conditions. The UNHCR report 2021 indicate a significant increase in the number of refugees and displaced persons in Africa. Without looking beyond approaches that have yielded little in terms of Silencing the Guns, the problem of terrorism, violent extremism, TOCs and the threats they pose to people and communities would remain and continue to grow.

In virtually every context that resilience is threatened or undermined, governance issues and priorities are stretched to limits that quickly manifest in social tensions, upheavals and violence. Underlying governance issues of lack of inclusion, injustice and rights violation, weak resource governance management, absence of social safety nets/welfare of citizens, withering local governance/authorities, declining economic/empowerment opportunities, flawed electoral system/process etc. are evolving into major sources of fragility with grave implications for peace and security. Against these backdrops, the evolving character and disposition of the state in Africa is tilting more towards authoritarianism and repression. The dual identity of the state as a provider of security and threat sources raises fundamental questions that border first and foremost on the status of the social contract between the state and citizens, and at a broader level, the quality of state-society relations.

Download the full Tana 2020 Concept Note documents  Concept Note(en).

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