The 5th Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa took place from the 16th to 17th of April, 2016 in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. Convened each year by the Institute for Peace and Security Studies at the Addis Ababa University, the forum is an independent initiative conceived by the late, former Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zanawi.
The Tana forum brings together African decision makers, peace and security stakeholder groups and their large constituency groups, for an open and informal discussion of security issues of importance to the continent and its regional institutions.
The theme for this year’s forum was “Africa in the Global Security Agenda”. The keynote speaker was Mr. Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations.
This year, Benjamin K.N. Larbi, a communications officer with the University, was invited to participate in the forum. At the forum, Ben represented the African Union Youth Working Group, a continental youth-led advocacy group.
Africa and the Global Security Architecture
Delivering the key note address on “Africa in the Global Security Architecture”, Mr. Kofi Annan observed that things had changed drastically, since the cold war years, when Africa looked for “big power champions who could provide diplomatic and security cover”.
He stated that the contemporary world was far more complex, citing atrocities perpetrated in West, East and North Africa, as proof that the continent was not immune to the security threats countries around the world face.
With statistics to support his assertions, the former Secretary General expressed optimism about the overall direction of Africa, which according to him was a strong indication that the continent is indeed doing better in terms of security of its citizenry.
“Today, and despite a few egregious exceptions, armed conflict is actually a smaller risk to most Africans than traffic accidents. This improvement of the security situation helped set the stage for rapid economic growth of 5-6% per year for the last fifteen years”, he said.
“As a result of this sustained period of growth, extreme poverty has fallen by 40% since 1990. And Africa’s growth can no longer be explained just by global demand for its commodities”, Mr. Annan added. He noted that the increased domestic demand for goods and services in various sectors had contributed to Africa’s growth over the decade.
“Today, and despite a few egregious exceptions, armed conflict is actually a smaller risk to most Africans than traffic accidents”
He cited the decline in the spread of HIV/AIDS, fall in the number of deaths by tuberculosis and malaria, strengthening of democratic processes across the continent, as well as increased efforts towards achieving gender parity, as positive indicators of progress on African continent.
Mr. Kofi Annan, however, expressed concern about what he described as uneven progress on the continent, a situation he believed created a fertile ground for the growth of rebel groups. “Rebel groups have flourished in the impoverished parts of weak states that feel hard-done by their governments, where the population is often abused by the security forces, or where they do not trust the courts to deliver justice”, he said.
He emphasized the need for governments to address the root causes of violence and disaffection. “You cannot have peace and security without inclusive development, the rule of law and the respect for human rights. These are the three pillars of all successful societies”, he stressed.
“It is no secret that unemployed young men are especially vulnerable to the temptations of violence and easily instrumentalised for that purpose. This is not a specifically Muslim problem: a World Bank survey in 2011 showed that about 40% of those who join rebel movements say they are motivated by a lack of jobs”, he emphasized.
“It is no secret that unemployed young men are especially vulnerable to the temptations of violence and easily instrumentalised for that purpose”
The Nobel laureate ended his address by emphasizing that Africa must confront its current security challenges, and step up to the role in the global security order.
“The forum provided lots of opportunities to learn from the real life experiences of influencers and professionals in the peace and security space” said Ben. “I’m grateful to the Tana secretariat for the invitation”