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Tana High Level Forum on Security in Africa, an informal gathering of Africans and its partners on African security, addressed state fragility and diversity in its inaugural meeting held in Bahar Dar, the capital city of the Amhara regional states, from April 14 to 15, 2012. The forum is crafted to be an annual event that addresses African peace and security issues with out declaring any sort of resolution as opposed to formal gatherings.
“The aim of this forum is not to duplicate duties of formal institutions; rather it meant to reinforce. It meant to compliment, to help implement those solutions that come out of formal institutions. Though the issue of peace and security appears to be impracticable in our continent, it gives me pleasure to welcome you to Bahir Dar to address it,” said the chairman of the forum and the former President of Nigeria, Olusengun Obasanjo.
“We have talked about fragility of states and the prospect of peace in Africa, what makes state weak, what are the imperative factors that make state strong first. In the second part of our discussion, we have discussed the management of diversity and its implication for peace and security. There is no country in Africa that has not got diversity as an issue or as a challenge. I don’t see it as a problem. Instead it is an opportunity that we should cherish. Most of our countries would diminish if we had no diversity in religion, culture, ethnicity, language and social group. The question is how we manage these diversities. It is mostly a problem when there is no equity, fairness and justice. Diversity by itself is not a problem; the problem is normally its poor management or total neglect of its management. Last year, we witnessed the formation of the fifty fourth African country, the Republic of South Sudan. The third important topic of discussion was the building of the new nation and its relation with the Sudan,” added the chairman.
It is anticipated that the informal forum will compliment the formal and regular meetings of African leaders, regional institutions, and African Union member states. The forum was an informal panel discussion that opened a door for personal dialogue in an open manner.
“The uniqueness of the forum gives participants an opportunity to share experience and insight in an informal setting and in a sprit of a quest for fresh ideas and perspective that would contribute, over time, to the emergence of a distinctively African voice in global policy and action on peace and security,” argued Prof. Andreas Eshete, CEO of the forum and Special Advisor to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi with the Rank of Minister.
“…the hope of the forum is that freedom from formal constraints and wide array of participant will enable free and vigorous examination of problems. It is an opportunity to interrogate and even stretch the limit of public deliberation on African public policy, on matters of peace and security. In the light of Africa’s intractable and swiftly changing peace and security, the reflective search for unexplored option and fresh perspective is a matter of urgency. This forum may help to advance this quest and thereby contributing to vital work of formal institutions such as the African Union…” added the CEO of the forum.
Out of the sixteen peace mission of the United Nations Security Council globally at present, seven of them are in Africa. Therefore, it seems timely for Africans to discuss issues of common concern; that is security, argue security experts. The case in point for common security in Africa is the turbulent recent past of North African countries including Tunisia, Egypt and Libya while the current situation of Mali and Guinea Bissau in West Africa calls for engagement of every citizen to take part in such a security dialogue adds the expert. The prolonged civil war for two decades now in neighboring Somalia is also meant to reinforce such an African self initiative believe the experts.
The forum is aimed at promoting dialogue as a fundamental, peaceful and durable means of resolving conflict and demonstrating that ethnic diversity is strength but not a source of conflict. It was organized by the Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS) of the Addis Ababa University. IPSS has labored for more than a year to make the forum in to reality. The forum was attended by both former and present heads of states, representatives of multilateral organizations, global security experts, academia, business people, youths and representative of civil society organizations.