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Olusegun Obasanjo on the State of Peace and Security in Africa


At this year’s Tana Forum, His Excellency Olusegun Obasanjo, the outgoing Chairperson of Tana Forum Board and former President of Nigeria, delivered a presentation on the State of Peace and Security in Africa, based on a similarly titled report produced as a background document for the Forum. The report offers a panoramic view of the African security landscape in 2017 and 2018.


He acknowledged that the theme of this year’s Tana Forum ‘Ownership of Africa’s Peace and Security Provision: Financing and Reforming the African Union’, provided an opportunity to reflect on the progress that Africa has attained in aspiring towards a political consensus on its future, but also of the tasks that lie ahead in ensuring the collective realization of a peaceful and prosperous continent.


He recalled the humble start of the Tana Forum initiative in 2012 when Meles Zenawi, the late Prime Minister of Ethiopia, predicted that the Forum would become the leading platform for informal yet critical debate on Africa’s peace and security issues. Obasanjo saluted the pioneering vision, and congratulated former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, not only for delivering on practical actions throughout his tenure but also for the statesmanship he displayed during the difficult transition leading up to the inauguration of the current Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Dr. Abiy Ahmed Ali.


Obasanjo’s presentation focused on five key trends:

  1. An analysis of long-drawn conflicts that remain resilient, either in their traditional and altered forms. He used the example of how violent conflicts in Mozambique, Burundi, Cameroon and Northern Mali, escalated into full-scale wars whereas Nigeria’s Niger-Delta Avengers (NDA) and Eastern DRC Kamwina Nsapu militia emerged as new conflicts. He called for critical and sustained attention to Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development (PCRD), mitigation and the root causes of conflicts through structural conflict prevention.
  2. Several episodes of riots and protests directed at incumbent governments across Africa have escalated. Obasanjo noted their close linkage to contestations over access to political and economic opportunities as administrations take extreme measures to remain in power. 

  3. Elections and political transitions have heightened tensions but have generally been peaceful. The experiences in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia indicate the challenging transitions sometimes emerge; however, Liberia and Sierra Leone are viewed as relatively smooth transfers of power.
  4. Pre-existing local, sub-national or national tensions and conflicts have contributed to, fuelled or exacerbated new security threats. Such conflicts typically feed on age-long structural conditions or express themselves in entirely new and vicious forms of the types evident in several on-going crises.
  5. Africa’s inter-governmental institutions like the African Union (AU) and Regional Economic Communities (RECs) are working in consonance with the United Nations (UN) and other global agencies in tackling threats to continental peace and security. Obasanjo urged institutions to readjust their thinking and perspectives in finding innovative and lasting solutions to conflicts. This approach would help prevent war tragedies like those the continent has experienced in places such as Somalia, Mali, Libya, the Lake Chad region, Libya and on the Mediterranean Sea.


Recognizing an almost 600% growth in the AU budget from about $160 million in 2006 to $770 million in 2018, Obasanjo estimated the figures to reach $1 billion by 2020. This same year, the Assembly is aiming for Member States to finance 75% of its own programmes and 25% of its peace and security budget.


Obasanjo acknowledged the timeliness of the AU’s institutional reforms, as putting the Union on solid financial ground will allow it to respond to emerging security challenges facing Africa without relying on foreign support. He also called upon the AU to approach equity with ‘clean hands’ by ensuring prudent management of its finances in an open, transparent and accountable manner subject to public scrutiny on an annual basis. 


Obasanjo emphasized that, beyond money and institutional matters, the current reform has to work towards putting in place a reinvigorated strategic partnership between the AU and regional mechanisms. RECs are the “building blocks” for African peace and security as well as integration and development, however, the AU and RECs are still not on the same page regarding the finer points of the on-going reform.


In conclusion, he shared his optimism for the continuation of collective efforts to ensure common security, shared values and democracy that will lead to the peace, security and well-being of Africans. This will be a positive contribution to a world refocused on liberalism, justice and inclusiveness.


Click here to download the State of Peace and Security in Africa 2018.

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