The African Leadership Forum 2017: Promoting peace and security for an integrated, united and sustainable Africa

ALF LogoThe fourth African Leadership Forum, an annual event convened by H.E. Benjamin Mkapa, former President of Tanzania was held in Johannesburg  from the 24th – 25th of August, 2017. With the theme of “Peace and Security for an Integrated, United and Sustainable Africa”, this year the Forum was co-convened by H.E. Mkapa and H.E. Thabo Mbeki, former President of South Africa. The organisation of the Forum was managed by the Thabo Mbeki Foundation and UONGOZI Institute, and was supported by the Wits School of Governance, South Africa.

The African Leadership Forum brings together Former Heads of State as well as leaders from all sectors across Africa to discuss pressing issues affecting Africa’s sustainable development endeavors.

Peace and security in Africa is of great concern not only because of the fatal consequences that result from its absence but because much of Africa shall continue to be very poor without sustained peace and security. Further, to achieve the goals of effective integration, unity and sustainable development within and amongst African nations, it is fundamental that there is peace and security.

The Forum sought to understand what the persistent challenges to peace and security are, and to deliberate on what are some of the feasible solutions.

Seven former African Heads of State were in attendance, including H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria, H.E. Bakili Muluzi, former President of Malawi; H.E. Mohamed Moncef Marzouki, former President of Tunisia; H.E. Jakaya Kikwete, former President of Tanzania; and H.E. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, former President of Somalia. The Forum was also attended by over 100 key African leaders and thinkers that are currently or had previously worked on issues of peace and security.

The Forum, which took place over one and a half days, consisted of a plenary session with a Keynote Address from H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria followed by a panel discussion on ‘Cementing Foundations for Sustainable Peace and Security’. Two other panel discussions were held on the first day, with one on ‘Moving Towards Inclusiveness’ and the second on ‘Good Governance and the Rule of Law’.

The public plenary panel discussion on ‘Cementing Foundations for Sustainable Peace and Security’ included H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, H.E. Moncef Marzouki of Tunisia, Hon. Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, Deputy Prime Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of Namibia; Prof. Funmi Olonisakin, Director of the African Leadership Centre, King’s college, London; and Mr. Francois Louceny Fall, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Central Africa.

The panel focused on the common foundations of peace and security and how to cement them for the attainment of overall peace across the continent; what some of the achievements have been, some of the drawbacks, and what initiatives need to be reassessed to ascertain their effectiveness in enabling and supporting lasting peace and security in Africa.

The second panel discussion on ‘Moving Towards Inclusiveness’ had H.E. Thabo Mbeki of South Africa; H.E. Bakili Muluzi of Malawi; Ms. Abbey Chikane, Chair of Sub Sahara Investment Holdings and former Chair of the Kimberley Process; and Mr. Ayabongwa Cawe, Economic Justice Programme Manager at Oxfam South Africa  as panelists.

This panel discussed how inequalities and exclusions have been the root of many conflicts across the continent, and how economic exclusion fails to provide equal economic opportunities in terms of employment and access to financial products and services, which can alienate people from their broader society and cause preventable tensions that may escalate to become conflicts, and thus inhibit peace.

The fourth panel on ‘Good Governance and the Rule of Law’ included H.E. Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania; H.E. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud of Somalia; Hon. Justice Bart M. Katureebe, Chief Justice of Uganda; and Hon. Roger Nkodo Dang, President of the Pan African Parliament.

The panel discussed the ideal of good governance as it relates to Africa, and how it may be difficult to achieve in its entirety, as it is all encompassing, including characteristics such as adherence to the rule of law, transparency, responsiveness, consensus building, equity and inclusiveness, effectiveness and efficiency, accountability, and participation. As the absence of one or more of these characteristics can sometimes lead to tensions, the panel discussed how best to uphold good governance and the rule of law in Africa in order to promote sustainable peace and security.

On the second day, H.E. Thabo Mbeki began with a presentation on ‘Africa’s Position in the Global Peace and Security Architecture’ which was followed by two breakout sessions chaired by H.E. Benjamin Mkapa and H.E. Moncef Marzouki on ‘International Factors Shaping Peace and Security Responses’ and Aligning National, Continental and International Peace and Security Frameworks’ respectively, and culminated with the closing plenary.

Below is a summary, with recommendations, of the Statement of the Forum:

In the wake of increasing global security concerns, Africa cannot afford to be a bystander in its development trajectory at the expense of its sustainability nor a global player with divided interests that are of little benefit to the people of the continent.  In the words of former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, Africa needs to ensure that it has “the capacity to manage conflict…and must rely less on peacekeepers from outside.  We need less politics and more altruistic governments; African Solutions to African Problems.”

It is in the interests of the continent to unite and re-establish a stronger continental commitment to the African Renaissance, economically, politically and socially.  To accomplish that vision and make it a reality, we need continental leadership, governments, civil society and African business to place the well-being of the people of this continent at the forefront of their endeavours.  African development and sustainability depends on the cooperative, responsible and accountable efforts of all those who live within its precinct, and contribute towards its development.

We call upon African leadership at all levels to advocate for stronger national and regional institutions to protect the continent, for they are imperative.  We ask that the African commerce and development sectors commit to the developmental and financial sustainability of our institutions of governance to ensure the continent’s inclusive economic development and guardianship of its growing adherence to good governance.

The responsibility of good governance is the duty of all those who live and do business in the continent and in the words of former President of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, “the commitment of African political leadership to this end should serve as an example to the people of the continent.”

Furthermore in Kikwete’s words, “it is important for Africa to remember to look at where we come from and where we are and to continue to say there has been progress.  We are not yet at the most optimal point, but we should not get to a point where we say everything in Africa is bad; because there are so many good things happening.  The pursuit of good governance is a work in progress”.

There is a need for this ‘work in progress’ to translate into an increasingly African way of doing that is rooted in African culture.

It is thus that the delegates of the African Leadership Forum ask that Africans renew their commitment to the continent with the following recommendations:

  • Africa should hear its own voice on matters of peace, security and sustainable development through increased and improved national dialogue; and by taking ownership of its peace and security concerns in matters of policy and political interventions.
  • Africa should shape the dialogue around the continent’s vision and create its own roadmap for sustained peace and stability. It should communicate with a unified voice, working on behalf of its own interests and the interests of its people for inclusive economic development and a growing adherence towards good governance.
  • Africa should insist on taking its rightful position at the forefront of defining Africa’s role in the global peace and security architecture, by providing decisive and purposeful political leadership on international matters pertaining to Africa.
  • Africa must resist the increasing militarisation of Africa’s peace and security architecture, especially relating to arms trade, terrorism, and the tendency of allowing managers of the African security sector to be trained by outsiders with external agendas.
  • African citizens should strive to develop a strong democratic consciousness that will lead to a culture of growing leadership, deepening democracy and enhancing civic education. This vision of Africans shaping their personal and collective destiny must be taken forward by Africa’s most valuable asset: its youth.

After supporting the organization of the African Leadership Forum for four years, UONGOZI Institute is pleased with the outcome of the ALF 2017. This meeting, in particular, has generated a lot of discussion in Tanzania, South Africa, Nigeria and beyond.

It is important to note that the ALF 2017 focused on the bigger picture issues of peace and security that affect the African continent which each country can draw lessons from. No special attention was paid to any particular country or government, and the recommendations that ultimately came out of the Forum reflected the same. It is therefore cautioned, that the rich discussion that took place at the African Leadership Forum 2017, and the statements made by the former Presidents and other participants in attendance should not be taken out of context.

The plenary session of the ALF 2017 is currently available to view on UONGOZI Institute’s website: The subsequent panel discussions will be made available on our website soon.

Lake Victoria: A threatened giant?

By Melisande Denis

lake-victoria-africaWith a surface area of over 68,600 km², Lake Victoria is the widest lake in Africa and the second largest freshwater lake in the world: as such, it provides crucial environmental services to its riparian communities. Its basin, shared between each member states of the East African Community with the exception of South Sudan (Tanzania accounts for 49% of its surface water, Uganda for 45% and Kenya for 6%, while its catchment area extends over Rwanda and Burundi through the Kagera River), is home to 40 million people, almost one third of the total population of the EAC. Its importance for the region can thus not be overstated; but ever since the middle of the twentieth century, a growing number of interrelated challenges have altered the traditional balance of the basin, threatening both the livelihoods of surrounding populations and the giant lake’s ecosystem.

In fact, the introduction of the Nile Perch in the lake in the 1950s and its surge in the 1970s have opened up the region to a lucrative international market, which has attracted huge numbers of new fishermen along the shores: from 50,000 individuals in the 1970s, there are now 200,000 workers competing over Lake Victoria’s fishes. This population boom has had worrisome consequences in terms of human development: rapid and unplanned urbanization has put untenable pressure on the water sanitation facilities and on the waste disposal infrastructures of the region. Water-related diseases such as cholera, typhoid, or bilharzia, have therefore been prevalent among the local populations, with higher rates than national averages. Municipal services have not been able to perform efficiently, and the living standards of the area have raised serious concerns over the last forty years: the Lake Victoria Basin is not only one of the most densely populated areas in the world, it is also one of the poorest.

Besides these alarming social issues, and mainly as a result of human activities, environmental challenges have also been piling up. Intensive fishing, species introduction, poor waste management, hazardous agricultural procedures, deforestation or the use of outdated industrial infrastructures have resulted in the rapid eutrophication of the lake and a shift in its traditional ecosystem. One of the most spectacular manifestations of these changes might have been the huge outbreaks of water hyacinth, an invasive alga, over the waters of Lake Victoria in the late 1990s and again in the mid-2000s: some areas became so clogged that navigation was made impossible for weeks.

With higher nutrient loads flowing into the lake, its traditional water composition has indeed been altered, fostering the proliferation of algae. In turn, this evolution has been responsible for increased fish mortality rates, which have directly affected the revenues of local inhabitants, with the lower catch per unit effort leading to unsustainable fishing practices. Social and environmental challenges thus appear to be interconnected and indivisible. In this perspective, the current state of the Lake Victoria Basin is a cause for serious concern: not only are the living conditions in the region worsening, but the very sustainability of the lake might also be called into question.

However, this rapid overview should not be overly pessimistic: if the challenges facing Lake Victoria are clearly colossal, the economic and environmental potential of the basin also deserves to be mentioned. Indeed, the opportunities surrounding the lake could hardly be exaggerated: with its gigantic water stocks, its numerous species of fish, its diversified wildlife and its stunning landscapes, the lake holds promise in terms of hydropower, industrialization, irrigation for agriculture, fishing, local and regional transport, and tourism. That is not to say that these great resources will provide a magical solution to the difficulties surrounding the Lake Victoria Basin; but merely that if substantial investments and sustainable methods are put in place, current challenges could potentially be mitigated, if not overcome. As a matter of fact, the EAC, which has identified the basin as a key area for the development of partner states, i.e. “a regional economic growth zone”, has established two regional institutions specifically designed to monitor the management of Lake Victoria (the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization in 1994, and the Lake Victoria Basin Commission in 2003). If it could be argued that their efficiency is yet to be proven (considering the lake’s present condition), it could also be reckoned that the shared recognition of the need for regional management is a promising step. Given the breadth of the challenges lying ahead, effective cooperation between the riparian states will indeed be mandatory to harness the basin’s potential. If undeniably threatened, Lake Victoria is not doomed yet: significant efforts, fostering the engagement of all the stakeholders and taking advantage of the opportunities provided by the lake, should encourage the sustainable management of its basin.

Melisande Denis, currently interning at UONGOZI Institute, is pursuing a Master’s degree in European and International Studies at the University of Paris III: Sorbonne Nouvelle in France.