In any particular year and on any particular issue, events and developments across Africa tend to evoke multiple and contrasting impulses. Due to its own making or by default, , the continent routinely experiences brief spells of progress and then longer, often intractable cycles of challenges that could be misconstrued as its dominant narrative. Either way, the complexity of peace and security issues the continent contends with on regular basis end up defining not just how it is viewed by its citizens and outsiders, but also its status in world affairs.
The State of Peace and Security in Africa (SPSA) has become the annual flagship Report of the Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa, popularly called the Tana Forum, offering a synoptic analysis of the pressing peace and security issues on the continent during the previous year—2018, in this case— and provide explanations for them. It is not intended, and cannot even pretend, to document all the peace and security challenges the continent faced in any particular year, but draw attention to those considered to be the most salient and cross-cutting, particularly in terms of disruption and harm they caused African citizens and the states.
For this edition, two deliberate decisions were made. The first one is to give those accounts in two separate but complementary volumes; this present one, which is a general survey of key peace and security matters across Africa in 2018, and the changing internal and external factors that defined or undermine them, while the second volume focuses on the specific theme for the 8th Tana Forum- Political Dynamics in the Horn of Africa: Nurturing the Emerging Peace Trends. The two documents should, preferably, be read as companion volumes, although they also standalone enough to be read separately. The second decision, common to both volumes, is the equally deliberate effort to present, in equal measures, the unpalatable but also positive sides to the narrative on peace and security in Africa.
All too often, the continent is portrayed as a basket-case of woes while the remarkable achievements of its citizens in the face of difficult social, political, economic and environmental challenges are underrepresented or completely glossed over. To present the African continent, with 55 sovereign states, as a helpless monolith that is unable to tackle its own problems is off-mark in many ways. Treating it as such tend to miss out several key milestones the continent made in any particular year in different spheres. Undoubtedly,
2018 was the year Africa continued to experience daunting threats linked to the activities of insurgency and terrorist groups, the disturbing outbreaks of communicable and non-communicable diseases, the impacts of adverse climate change, and the persistence of civil wars in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali and South Sudan.
When the coin is flipped, it was also the year in which Africa recorded a number of positive achievements. For one, some of the continent’s long-drawn conflicts screeched to a halt and produced peace agreements, even if some of them were also frequently breached. It was the year when a fresh wind of change began to blow across the Horn of Africa; starting with the rapprochement between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and that between Eritrea and Djibouti, despite the troubles in Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia. Notwithstanding the recurrent hiccups, a total of 27 African countries held elections in 2018.1
They included the constitutional referendum in Burundi and Comoros in May and July,2, presidential elections in eight countries and 17 local and parliamentary elections. It is now widely accepted that elections have become the preferred route to transfer of power even if the aftermath does not fully address the concerns and expectations of the citizens
Except for the abortive coup by rank-and-file soldiers in Gabon over welfare issues in 2018, African militaries have mostly taken a back seat in politics.
The space for civil society engagement also expanded, despite the considerable risks ctors and stakeholders in that sector routinely face. Countries that once went through prolonged political crises, violent conflicts and civil wars continued to consolidate, even if slowly and painfully so. 2018 was also the year that all but three African countries met and signed the continental free trade agreement, which at the time of completing this Report in early April 2019, has reached the threshold of the 22 ratifications required for it to come into force. Finally, there was a greater sense of urgency to mobilize and amplify African agency and voice at the regional and continental levels, and within major global platforms such as the United Nations and the European Union. Some of the new initiatives that came on stream in the year under review included the establishment of the Africa Centre for Disease Control, and the conversion of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, NEPAD, into a more holistic and all-encompassing African Development Agency (ADA). Overall, then, developments around the continent—good or bad—are taking place simultaneously and should be accorded the same space as it has been done in this part of the Report. A reflection on key positive developments across Africa is essential in order to keep track of- and learn from- them, towards achieving the goals encapsulated in the AU Agenda 2063 of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa.
Scope and Purpose
The 2018 SPSA, just like earlier volumes, will not only identify the key milestones during the year but also to provide the necessary context and narratives to help the reader, ordinary citizens or high-level policymakers, to make sense of the complexity of issues, opportunities and threats that the continent experienced in the sphere of peace and security. On the surface, Africa’s myriad peace and security challenges in 2018 might seem isolated and disconnected from each other but on a closer interrogation reveal intricate connectivity to wider global dynamics.
It is important to reiterate the last point given the tendency to misconstrue the notion of African solutions to African problems to mean that external actors should either take a backseat or walk away from contributing to solving the continent’s problems. It is clear from the twist and turns of events in the peace and security sector in 2018 that Africa’s fortunes, and also misfortunes, are closely linked with those of other parts of the world, and that the latter cannot afford to treat the con-tinent with contempt or leave it to its fate. Ultimately, as this Report warns, much would first and foremost depend on how African citizens, governments and institutions themselves are on the same page on key issues, and how they act in concert with global actors, state and non-state, to address critical peace and security concerns moving forward.
The 2018 SPSA will go beyond the unhelpful fixation with top-down perspectives often deployed in trying to understand and explain Africa and its peace, security and developmental imperatives, but also draw attention to small-scale but equally decisive efforts from below to tackle them. By paying attention to the agency of the ‘local’, therefore, the present Report amplifies the often ignored, or underplayed, hard truth that only Africans themselves can sustainably redeem their continent in the long term. Furthermore, by taking a view from the top as much as from below, with a focus on the daily grinds that are increasingly undermining human security on the continent, this year’s Report will hopefully draw attention to those issues that tend to be ignored or ‘lost’ when seeking solutions to peace and security concerns in Africa.
The ultimate goal of this Report is to re-energize and strengthen African agency and commitment to the conceptualization and implementation of proactive and innovative measures in response to the challenges imposed by peace and security considerations on the continent. In so doing, it underscores the complexities that define and characterize Africa’s security landscape and provide critical insights into the structural enablers behind those predicaments. It critically assesses African-and external- responses to those challenges, against the backdrop of developments around the world.
Putting together the 2018 SPSA Report is both intensive and challenging precisely because, while so much happened in that year that should ordinarily be considered and included, only a handful can be taken in. It is important to bear in mind,
in reading it, that the Report is the product of a collegiate effort- not just in terms of the lead authors but also the plurality of sources that it relied upon for the analysis and insights contained in it. It drew from a wide range of sources, either those individuals with deep knowledge of the continent or governmental and non-governmental institutions within and outside Africa that are at the forefront of tackling the very issues under consideration.
The Report relied on extensive desk research, which involved deep content analysis of official documents by African governments and inter-governmental institutions such as the United Nations, African Union and regional organizations; local and international non-governmental organisations; scholarly publications in books, journals, monographs and policy briefs; print and electronic media reports on specific events and countries; and datasets from African and international sources. In the case of datasets, this year’s edition of the SPSA Report relied extensively on the daily situation reports distributed electronically by the Situation Room of the AU’s Continental Early Warning System (CEWS) in 2018. A total of 267 daily situation reports were analysed using Atlas.ti 8.3, a workbench for the qualitative analysis of large bodies of textual, graphical, audio, and video data to make systematic and meaningful sense of raw, disparate and unstructured data. The AU situation report was complemented with the datasets published during the year by leading think-tanks such as the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data (ACLED), the Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research (HIIK), African Development Bank’s African Economic Outlook, UNDP’s Human Development Index, Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s Ibrahim Index on Governance in Africa, and Afrobarometer. The key insights from the diverse data sources were triangulated and duly embedded in the Report.