Third Conference on Peace and Security in the Horn of Africa 23rd-24th November 2009

Introduction

InterAfrica Group organized the third conference on peace and security in the Horn of Africa on November 23rd -24th 2009 at the Sheraton Hotel in Addis Ababa. The two day conference covered numerous themes and challenges faced by the different countries of the Horn of Africa. The state of affairs in Sudan was given particular importance due to the upcoming elections and referendum in the 2010-2011 period, which will determine whether Sudan remains united.

Mr. Tamrat Kebede, Executive Director of InterAfrica Group, gave the opening remark and noted that the sub region still suffers from intensifying conflict which are resulting in a significant number of deaths as well as a considerable number of displaced persons. Conflicts are emanating from interlinked causes and exhibiting interlinked consequences. This necessitates the need for programs to be developed at both the national and regional levels. This dual approach requires on the one hand analysis and consultation on critical issues such as democratization, economic justice, and inclusive political policies. On the other hand, it requires the creation of comprehensive integrated and coordinated strategies that aim at sub regional cooperation and integration. He urged participants to deliberate on the root causes of instability, and expressed his anticipation that the outcome of the conference would provide a realistic input to policy makers. Mr. Kebede concluded by thanking the scholars presenting papers at the conference, participants at the meeting as well as the Royal Danish government for sponsoring the meeting.

Ambassador Peter Robleh, Deputy Chair of the InterAfrica Group, followed the opening remarks of Mr. Kebede by welcoming the guests. He mirrored the sentiments of the previous speaker stating that the Horn of Africa has dealt with more than its share of conflict in comparison to other regions in the continent. He mentioned some of the conflicts previously experienced in the region, in particular, the Ethio-Somalia confrontation which began as simmering tensions in 1963 and became full scale war in 1977; the Tanzania-Uganda confrontation over the Kagera river boundary in 1978-1979; and the Ethio-Eritrea confrontation of the late 1998, which became one of the largest interstate wars in recent history. The issue of Sudan has emerged as a pivotal subject in the region, particularly since the formation of the unity government and the signing of the CPA (Comprehensive Peace Agreement) were promising signs that are now faltering.

Amb. Robleh further stated that the dual concerns of democracy and security have dominated African politics in the post Cold War era. Conflict has emerged as the most intractable challenge to these two aims. The defining elements of security have always been reassessed and re discussed, for example the idea of security as the absence of insecurity. According to the traditional Western conception of insecurity, the main sources of insecurity are exogenous and these threats appear in military guises requiring military responses. This security paradigm can no longer explain the experiences of insecurity in the Horn. Insecurity in the Horn of Africa has been linked with poverty, marginalization of minority groups, the fractious nature of governance, and the lack of accountable/capable governance to manage these issues. Accumulating military strength has also been a preoccupation in the region and has dominated peace and security discussions. Security in the continent is now being defined as human security, i.e. freedom from disease, poverty, and respect for human rights; ultimately, a public good that is enhanced by transparency and predictability in governance. However, thus far, there is a lack of a regional framework for peace. For example, the Constitutive Act of the AU has not sufficiently laid out mechanisms for peace and security in the continent.

Amb. Robleh concluded by stating that peace requires interactions between different sectors and actors, especially in consideration of the diminishing state role in the global village which has energized

social movements around the world. This necessitates the inclusion of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, laws addressing war crimes and human rights abuses, and gender issues in discussions about security.

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