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Resolving Conflicts with ‘African Solutions’ –

April 23, 2016

By Hailemariam Desalegn*

Hailemariam Desalegn, prime minister of Ethiopia, in his welcome address at the Tana High-Level Forum on Security, on April 16, Bahir Dar, advocates using African solutions to resolve conflict situations in the continent

Hailemariam Desalegn

Hailemariam Desalegn

IT is my pleasure and privilege to warmly welcome you all to the beautiful city of Bahirdar and to this unique gathering, which brings together African Heads of State and Governments, high-level government officials, prominent personalities and critical stakeholders on a most timely topic of common interest: “Africa in the Global Security Agenda”. Allow me, Excellencies, to recognize the magnificent work the Secretariat has carried out in successfully organizing yet another forum on security in Africa. I am very grateful to the people and government of the Amhara Regional State for the generous hospitality that they accord to the participants of this dialogue every year. I would also like to thank all the participants, who have come from far and near, to grace us with their presence.

Five years ago when the idea of Tana Forum was conceived, the purpose was to provide a unique , neutral and informal setting for serious discussions among African leaders, opinion makers, change agents, academics, practitioners and partners on African security challenges with a view to forge  African solutions to African problems. We are now on our fifth annual event. The growing attendance and diversity of participants demonstrates the growing recognition of the Tana Forum.

Thanks to your unwavering support and immense contributions, Tana Forum has become an invaluable platform for the exchange of views, best experiences and innovative approaches to the fast changing security challenges facing our continent and the global community.

No single challenge in Africa can be considered an only African one. In its impacts or underlying causes or implementation of proposed solutions, every challenge in Africa, in one way or another, involves, implicates or requires non-African actors.

The truth is that we are living in an increasingly interconnected and complex world, where apparently isolated and small problems will have global and non-linear consequences; where effective solutions require active collaboration of nations and stakeholders.

What ‘African solutions’ means is two things principally. First, information about problems, causes and solutions ought to be primarily collected and analyzed by those who understand the African context. Collection and analysis of information is not necessarily an objective exercise. It is influenced by the particular frame of reference and embodied values of whoever is undertaking this exercise. In addition, intimate and deeper local knowledge is required for effective design of solutions.

Second, the quality of delivering institutions is as important as the quality of the diagnosis and prognosis. ‘African institutions’ have to be the principal ones that should be entrusted with the responsibility to deliver.

The colonial powers characterized informal governing institutions in Africa as backward and barbaric.  They undertook massive efforts to install formal institutions of governance, informed by their own experience and knowledge. Formal institutions were superimposed on informal institutions, without acknowledging the latter. It later became painfully clear that these exercises were not only ineffective but also counterproductive.

The good thing is that we have started the complementary design and use of formal and informal institutions in many areas. When it comes to peace and security, the experience is limited at best.

The notion of ‘African solutions’ is not limited to continental and regional processes and institutions. It also includes national institutions. If we cannot first develop and implement Ethiopian, Nigerian, Egyptian, Kenyan, Rwandese solutions and institutions, how come we expect to develop and deploy African solutions and institutions?

Permit me to briefly illustrate the enormous sacrifices Africa and her peoples’ continue to make in the face of several odds stacked against it; and why the rest of the world should support and partner with us; not deride, mock and leave us to our fate. Many of you might not know this but the truth is that Ethiopia, despite the developmental challenges we face (as almost all African countries do too) is one of the highest contributors to continental- and, by extension- global peace and security. We have not only put our citizens at the forefront of political and diplomatic missions in the Horn, and across Africa, but also contribute the highest number of personnel to United Nations and African Union peacekeeping operations in Africa. As I speak, for instance, our men and women in uniform are solely policing Abyei region, the contested borders between Sudan and South Sudan. I would also like to put on record that Ethiopia currently contributes the largest in terms of female contingents either wearing the UN Blue Helmet or serving under the auspices of the African Union; including several of them in senior command positions.

But, then, also all of these have become great costs; not just in terms of painful loss of lives, but also at a time when Ethiopia; as most other African countries, are grappling with enormous economic, social, political challenges at home. You will agree that even as we take the bold steps to serve as “first responders” wherever we are faced with grave threats to peace and security on the continent, we simply cannot do it all alone. As far as I can see, therefore, Africa needs the rest of the world just as the rest of the world needs Africa. For as long as there is disconnect, even for a short period, in the realisation that we are in this together, the world will not know peace; not the quality of peace that the current and future generations deserve.

We have seen improvements in developing and operationalizing the African architecture for peace and security, including the engagement of elders and women. These institutions must deliver in the areas of early detection of problems and correct analysis, deliberation and generation of solutions.

If we are not quick, effective and credible in these regard, forces outside Africa will be tempted to fill gaps. When they do so, they will be likely guided by their own detached frames of reference and models. The resultant solution will, therefore, be alien and non-effective and sometimes counterproductive. Such forces are motivated to do so not only by the possible and real spillover effects on them of security problems in Africa but also by the opportunity to entrench their interests and positions within Africa.

It is, therefore, fitting that the fifth Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa is devoted to the interrogation and generation of strategies for strengthening the role of Africa in the global security agenda.

I look forward to participating in the dialogue. Have a fruitful and enjoyable time on the shores of Lake Tana.

*Culled from Real Magazine.Hailemariam Desalegn, prime minister of Ethiopia, delivered this welcome address at the just-ended two-day Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, on Saturday, April 16, 2016

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