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Tuesday, 01 May 2018

C_ Peace and Security in Tana Forum (1)

The Tana High Level Forum on Security that was convened in Bahr Dar ,Ethiopian on 21 -22 April ,2018 under theme of the two-day 7th Tana High-level Forum on Peace and Security in Africa is “Ownership of Africa’s Peace and Security Provision: Financing and Reform of the African Union.”

One of the most important interventions in the Forum was made the former Nigerian President Obasanja , here are some of what he said:

Since our last gathering here, some water has passed under the bridge elsewhere in the world which we cannot afford to ignore. The first was the heavily increased outflow of migrants from Africa and Middle-East to Europe and the effect it had on the political and social landscape of Europe. The phenomenon remains with us as the causes of migration from the countries of origin are still very much there. The next issue flowing directly or indirectly from migration is what is regarded as rising populism and abandonment of liberal attitude or de-globalization in favor of diminishing integration leading to Brexit in June last year. Admiring Brexit and using it to campaign in the U.S was the emergence of President Donald Trump, who against popular run of the mail became the 45th President of America with his populism, America First etc and the unknowns and the apprehensions about his presidency. There is a lot of disquiet about French election. All these cast dark cloud on the horizon of world peace, security, stability and solidarity especially as they are superimposed on the war in Syria which has now lasted more than six years, the situations in Iraq and Yemen. We are moving from the fairly liberal, stable if not totally predictable world to an unstable, unpredictable, populist, world with disequilibrium. There is danger for every nation and for every region in such a world. And Africa by virtue of its apparent weakness cannot wish for such a world where it will be a pawn and a victim especially in light of our current precarious peace and security situation.

Peace & Security Trends

Before delving into our theme for the year on natural resource governance, permit me to provide the usual panoramic overview of Africa’s peace and security landscape in 2016. Permit me, therefore, to share with you some indicative headline:

In 2016, the overall number of conflict and violent events in Africa stood at 17,539; only two more than in the previous year even though their cumulative intensity and impacts remained dangerously high;

In 2016, the number of large scale wars and field battles either stagnated or declined while the continent witnessed an implosion in the number of non-state conflict agents such as militias, vigilantes, violent extremist groups and spontaneous movements (protesters) vis-à-vis the intensity of violence they perpetrate;

In 2016, countries like Libya, Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria that have experienced long-standing violent conflicts also recorded the highest number of conflict events; with the four mentioned accounting for one-thirds of all violent conflict on the continent during the same year, slightly decreasing from 35% and 40% in 2015 and 2014, respectively;

In 2016, Africa witnessed a marked change in the character of armed conflict and violence as they became more diffused and dispersed with the spread of mass protests and militia activities.

In 2016, the numbers of so-called ‘low-intensity’ conflicts or ‘quasi-war’ situations increased as witnessed in Mozambique, Burundi, Cameroon, Nigeria, the DRC, Northern Mali, and those along border regions throughout the Sahel region where the writ of the state is minimal or non-existent. Unfortunately, due to scanty media coverage those equally deadly episodes of internecine violent rooted in unresolved or badly managed historical-political grievances mostly escaped public attention;

2016 was also a year of multiple riots, protests and socio-political anomies, with a 5% increase over the previous with outbreaks in Tunisia, South Africa, Ethiopia, Mali, Gabon, Cameroon, Chad and the Gambia, to mention a few. Sadly, those popular expressions witnessed where matched by the growing securitization of protests as many governments embarked on crackdowns, arbitrary arrests and detentions, shutdown of communication systems, to mention a few;

2016 witnessed a marked decline in reported cases of rape and gender-based violence in the DRC as well as in countries such as Sudan, South Sudan, CAR and the DRC.

2016 witnessed the highest number of migrants’ death in the Mediterranean with the number of casualties and missing persons from the multitude seeking to cross into Europe through North Africa, especially from Libya, topping 5,098; or 35% above the 2015 levels. On average, to quote the UNHCR, 14 people die every single day in 2016 trying to cross the treacherous waters of the Mediterranean;

In 2016, finally, the scale of human fatalities from multiple sources that included those from organised armed conflict events was estimated at 30,000, a decrease by 6,000 from the previous year’s levels. Even at that, civilians continued to be targeted or caught in crossfires to the extent that violence against civilians across the continent increased for the second year in a row to 45%, up by three percentage points from 2014 levels.

From the brief synopsis so far, I would like to draw out three unmistakable points about the peace and security challenges that Africa faced in 2016: (1) Conflicts is a ‘wicked’ problem; (2) Violence in and outside of formal armed conflicts the real problem; and (3) From Africa Rising to ‘Africans Rising.’


Conflicts as a ‘wicked’ problem

I recollect my speech at this same podium last year where I drew your attention to the dangerous resurgence of old conflicts across the continent. Sad to say, my conclusions then are still relevant today to the extent that some of the issues, problems and predictions made then have become self-fulfilling prophesies. My intent is not to celebrate them as prophecies but return to them as a way of redirecting our attention to the complex realities of managing and resolving seemingly intractable Africa’s security challenges. By returning to then, also, I hope we can better grasp the enduring impacts of the structural weaknesses that underlie much of the old conflicts and security challenges facing Africa. In 2016, there was neither movement nor motion towards peace in major theatres of conflicts such as Libya, Mali, Sudan, South Sudan, Central Africa Republic, to name a few. Across board, several genuine peace and reconciliation efforts were thwarted by several failed attempts to implement peace agreements, continued belligerency among actors, and the absence of political will.

Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen, much more than any other conflict in 2016, that in Africa’s newest country- South Sudan- made the headlines for the wrong reasons. In my view, South Sudan is a poster example of the ‘wicked’ nature of the peace and security challenges Africa faces, with some of the narrowest scope for peace and security in the immediate term. Permit me to illustrate my point further by recalling how political tensions and inter-ethnic acrimony escalated into full-scale violence in Juba, the capital, following armed clashes between the SPLM government forces and SPLM-IO troops in July 2016.

The forced exit of Vice President Riek Machar from Juba, as you know, triggered new rounds of clashes and bloodletting that setback the implementation of the August 2015 peace agreement brokered by IGAD. The immediate trigger was the deadlock over plans by the government to change from the 10-provinces plan contained in the peace agreement to a 28 state structure, but even that is rooted in historically fault-lines and structural blind-spots in the character of the conflict, the nature of peace agreements and the current approaches and priorities of mediation and conflict resolution activities in Africa.

Sadly, there are other pockets of low-level violent contestations among local communities over ownership of land and identities, boundaries delimitation, land grabbing, and dwindling access to grazing compounded by lingering effects of adverse climate change and limited adaptive capacities. The collapse of South Sudan’s economy in 2016 further increased social tensions and dampened the prospects of peace. The latest fighting quickly led to the internal displacement of 1.6million persons, with another one million or more scattering as refugees across neighbouring countries to the extent that the overall number of people facing risk of food insecurity to over 4.8million.