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Report on the Fifth TANA High-Level Forum on Security in Africa

Ulf Engel (U Leipzig, Germany) and Matthias Middell (U Leipzig, Germany)
Date Saturday, 16 April– Sunday, 17 April 2016
Authors Ulf Engel (U Leipzig, Germany) and Matthias Middell (U Leipzig, Germany)
Language English
Information Report PDF


Fifth TANA High-Level Forum on Security in Africa, 2016

On 16 and 17 April 2016 the fifth edition of the TANA High-Level Forum on Security in Africa took place in Bahir Dar on the southern shore of Lake TANA, the source of the Blue Nile in Ethiopia. Modelled on the Munich Security Conference (MSC) – which was established in 1963 to bring together senior decision makers from around the world, including heads of state, ministers, leading personalities of international and non-governmental organizations, as well as high ranking representatives of industry, media, academia, and civil society, to engage in an intensive debate on current and future security challenges – the TANA forum was initiated in 2012 by the late Ethiopian prime minister, Meles Zenawi. The theme of this year’s forum was “Africa in the Global Security Agenda.”

According to its website, 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, results-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”. Financially, TANA is supported by the governments of Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway and Switzerland.

This year’s participants included the host country’s prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, as well as the president of Sudan, Omar Al-Bashir, the minister of foreign affairs and cooperation of Rwanda, Louise Mushikiwabo, and the former presidents of Burundi (Pierre Buyoya), Mozambique (Joaquim Chissano), Nigeria (Olusegun Obasanjo) and South Africa (Thabo Mbeki), the former UN and Arab League envoy to Syria and former Algerian minister of foreign affairs (Lakhdar Brahimi), the Ethiopian foreign minister (Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus) as well as Andreas Esheté (the former president of Addis Ababa U and a special advisor to the prime minister of Ethiopia, with a rank of a minister), some of whom also serve on the TANA board. The special guest was the former UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan (Ghana).

Other interesting speakers included Dr Carlos Lopes, the under-secretary general and executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Adebayo Olukoshi, the executive director for Africa and the Middle East at the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA International), Wolfgang Ischinger, chairperson of the Munich Security Conference, and Jose Ramos-Horta, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, former president of Timor-Leste, and chair of the High-Level Independent Panel on UN Peace Operations.

Matthias Middell and Ulf Engel were invited to participate in this year’s conference; the former on account of the global perspective being taken by the TANA forum, and the latter due to his long-standing involvement with the African Union and the Institute of Peace and Security Studies (Addis Ababa U), which serves as the logistical backbone of the TANA forum.

The TANA High-Level Forum on Security in Africa certainly shows how the African Union and her member states over the past 15 years have developed and appropriated a peace and security discourse that is complex, nuanced, responsive to the challenges the continent is still facing, and engaged with various actors at different levels: international partners as well as African civil societies. Still, there are important challenges have yet to be addressed in terms of broadening the scope of participation in the TANA forum, as well as discussing topics relevant to everyday lives.

Ulf Engel & Matthias Middell