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.

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. 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.

H.E. Luisa Diogo
Former Prime Minister of Mozambique

From 2004 to 2010, Luisa Diogo was Prime Minister of Mozambique, the first woman to serve in this position. Before becoming Prime Minister, she served as Minister of Planning and Finance. Recently, Diogo has focused on gender equality and women’s empowerment through a recently launched “Network of Women Ministers and Parliamentarians” (MUNIPA). The MUNIPA network aims to strengthen advocacy and lobbying activities so that adopted policies and legislation are favorable to gender equity and women’s empowerment. Diogo has urged African health ministers to offer reproductive and sexual health services free of charge throughout the continent. She is also a member of the Council of Women World Leaders and the Club de Madrid. She holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Maputo’s Eduardo Mondlane University and a master’s degree in financial economics from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London

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.

Amb. Berhane Gebre-Christos
Special Envoy of the Prime Minister of Ethiopia with a rank of a Minister

Ambassador Berhane Gebre-Christos is currently the Special Envoy of the Prime Minister of Ethiopia with a rank of a Minister. He was Foreign Affairs State Minister from 2010 to 2012, and from 2002 to 2010, he served as Ambassador of Ethiopia to the European Union and Benelux (the Kingdom of Belgium, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the Kingdom of the Netherlands). Amb. Berhane was previously the Ambassador to the United States, a post he held from 1992 to 2002. He holds a Master’s degree in International Relations from the University of Amsterdam.

Amb. Soad M. Shalaby
Director General of the Egyptian African Centre for Women (EACW)

Soad Shalaby is an Egyptian career diplomat who has served her country for over 40 years. She is the Director General of the Egyptian African Centre for Women (EACW). For the past two years, she has served as the International Cooperation Advisor for the Egyptian National Council for Women and the Director of the Women Business Development Centre (WBDC). She was previously the Director of the Cairo Regional Centre for Training on Conflict Resolution and Peacekeeping in Africa (CCCPA) from 2007 to 2012. Ambassador Shalaby was the first woman to be appointed Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs and Director of the Institute for Diplomatic Studies. She served as the Egyptian Ambassador to Finland, Estonia, Mozambique and Swaziland. She has also served in numerous international and regional roles including with the African Union and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). She holds a Bachelor’s in Economics and Political Science from Cairo University, and completed her postgraduate studies in Political Science in McGill University in Montreal, Canada

Prof. Souleymane Bachir Diagne
Professor of Philosophy, Columbia University, USA

Professor Souleymane Bachir Diagne has taught philosophy for more than twenty years at the University Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, Senegal. His work is in the fields of history, logic and philosophy, especially in the Islamic world and in Africa. In addition, he is also an author of various books and publications, including articles and contributions published in numerous publications. He is currently teaching at Columbia University and was recently cited as part of the 50 most prominent African intellectuals by the New African Magazine.

Mr. Alain Foka
Journalist, 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.

Dr. Hashim Mohammed Tewfik
Assistant Professor, Center for Federal Studies, Addis Ababa University

Dr. Hashim Mohammed Tewfik has been an Assistant Professor at Addis Ababa University’s Center for Federal Studies since 2008. Previously, Dr. Hashim served as Ethiopia’s State Minister for Justice (2005-2008), Director of the Ethiopian Federal Police College, and Assistant Professor of Law at the Ethiopian Civil Service College. Dr. Hashim holds a PhD from Melbourne University, Australia and an LLM from K.U. Leuven, Belgium. He is an expert on comparative constitutional law, federalism and decentralization.

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 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.
  • Dr. Charles Ukeje, Reader in 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