Unencumbered by the African Union's need to reach a consensus among its 54 member states, the Tana Security Forum, which also meets each year in Ethiopia, is expanding its influence as it confronts some of the more unpalatable realities of political stability. Its invitation to Kofi Annan, former United Nations Secretary General, to attend the Fifth Forum on 16-17 April allowed him to voice concern about the leaders who have been changing the constitution to extend their stay in power (see Feature, Democrats under fire).
Violence in two countries run by such leaders, Burundi and
Congo-Brazzaville, was raging
as Annan was speaking. Annan also focused
on how attacks on the rule of law, the erosion of human rights,
corruption and deepening inequality were encouraging insurgencies and
serious instability in around a dozen African states. He said all these
rebellions – whether backed by international jihadist groups or those
of local militias – exploit poor governance standards to win grassroots
support, or just acquiescence, in their military campaigns. Part of the
response must be military, he argued, and that requires well trained
but also more accountable security forces.
But it was his political prescriptions which produced a muted
response from those heads of state present, and beyond: much more
effort should go into building the integrity of the electoral process
and making it less of a zero-sum game for the victor and vanquished at
a time of rising economic discontent.