Tenth annual conference on peace and security in the Horn of Africa held in Nairobi, Kenya
By Merkeb Negash
A two day annual conference on peace and security in the Horn of Africa, with the theme “Consolidating Regional Cooperation While Protecting National Security Interests- Diametric Opposition or Precondition for Peace and Stability?” was held on 21 and 22 October 2014 in Nairobi, Kenya.
Organized by Friedrick Ebert Stiftung, the annual conference brought together policy makers and experts from the region with the purpose of enhancing dialogue and debate on current security issues, and developing joint regional policy recommendations to support the resolution of ongoing crises in the region.
The 2014 conference, which feeds its reflections and discussions from the FES regional project titled “Mapping National Security Interests In The Horn Of Africa” intended to address “The Dilemma Between Foreign Policy Dominated By Unilateral National Security Interests Versus The Need For And Different Approaches To Regional Security Cooperation”. In so doing, it identified competing and coinciding national security interests, and explored different avenues for security cooperation with in the Greater Horn of Africa region.
The conference had five sessions with respective particular sub-themes. While the first session dealt with the overall national security interests of governments in the Horn of Africa, the second and the third sessions discussed the national security interests of the governments and neighbors of Somalia and South Sudan, respectively. The fourth session addressed the national security interests of the regional states versus regional organizations and mechanisms with a due emphasis on IGAD. The fifth session concluded the conference by discussing the roles of regional and international institutions in South Sudan and Somalia.
In this conference, Ethiopia was represented by three delegation teams from the Prime Minister Office, The Policy Research and Analysis Department (PORAD) of The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and The Ethiopian International Institute for Peace and Development (EIIPD).
A delegation from The Policy Research and Analysis Department (PORAD) of The Ministry of Foreign Affairs led by Professor Mekonnen Hadis (Chief Advisor to the Ministry) included Ambassador Abdulazez (Deputy Chief Advisor to the Ministry) and Ato Merkeb Negash (Senior Researcher at PORAD), presented the security interest of Ethiopia in Somalia and the wider region. After briefly elucidating on the pillars of Ethiopia’s national security policy and strategy (i.e human security and regional integration), Professor Mekonnen stressed on the need for tackling the root causes of terrorism in Somalia. He noted that there are structural foundations conducive for terrorism in Somalia and the wider region, and urged for a regional effort to address terrorist threats in Somalia as al-Shabbab is not just a threat to a single state but a threat to all the peoples of the wider region. He also stressed that the nature of this regional effort needs to focus on addressing the fundamental causes of terrorism (such as unemployment, economic destitution and political stagnation) than an exclusive focus on military strategy. Prof. Mekonnen concluded by noting that Ethiopia’s commitment to peace and security in Somalia is not just rhetorical but a foreign policy imperative based on firm national interest.
H.E. Ato Getachew Reda (Spoken Person of the Prime Minister) and H.E. Ato Tsegay Berhe (Security Advisor to the Prime Minister) presented Ethiopia’s security interests in South Sudan and its role in helping to resolve the ongoing crisis. Discussing the security implication of the ongoing crisis in South Sudan, Ato Getachew Reda pointed out, among others, the negative repercussions that the civil war does have on our regional integration efforts, its vulnerability of being a stepping stone to all anti-Ethiopian elements, and the conflict’s spillover effect to our people on the Ethio- South Sudan border. He also raised the danger of regionalization of the conflict which might open an additional space for “traditional spoilers like Eritrea”. Ato Getachew also informed the audience about the role Ethiopia is playing, in collaboration with regional and international institutions, in resolving the current crisis in south Sudan.
Ato Sibhat Nega represented The Ethiopian International Institute for Peace and Development (EIIPD) on the annual conference.
By and large, the Ethiopian team presented, discussed and elaborated on Ethiopia’s national security interests and its strategies towards neighbors and the entire region, and made sure that Ethiopia’s foreign policy directions and strategies were clearly communicated to the participants of the conference.