Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the Panel, we would like to welcome and thank all of you for your attendance at this most important strategic meeting to reflect on the peace and security challenges and prospects relating to the Horn of Africa.
The Horn of Africa has a special place in the history of our continent. It is a place of extraordinarily rich history and diverse cultures; a place where the three monotheistic faiths of Christianity, Islam and Judaism have been present from their earliest days; a place where the foreign colonizer was resisted longest and most successfully.
Sadly, the immense potential of this region, manifest in its cultural heritage, human and natural resources, has yet to be realised. The Horn of Africa has been subjected to some of the longest and most destructive armed conflicts. The people of this region remain poor. Resolving the conflicts of the Horn of Africa and setting the region on a path to cooperation and prosperity is a priority and an obligation for all of us.
At its 397th meeting, the African Union Peace and Security Council at the level of Heads of State and Government, held in New York in September 2013, the PSC resolved that our Panel should work with the Chairperson of IGAD to convene a Conference on Peace, Security, Stability, Cooperation and Development in the Horn of Africa to help the region to address its challenges. That decision was taken in the anticipation that the conflicts in Sudan and South Sudan would quickly be resolved, and that it would be possible for ourselves and the IGAD Chairperson to turn our attention to the wider strategic issues facing the Horn of Africa.
We need not remind you that our hopes for a speedy resolution of the armed conflicts in Sudan and South Sudan were disappointed. Indeed, the regression of South Sudan into a state of civil war is one of the most tragic developments of our era. Responding to these conflicts has of necessity preoccupied the energies of ourselves and the Chairperson of IGAD over the intervening four years.
Nonetheless, the wider strategic issues have not faded. Indeed, over the interim, they have sharpened. In addition to the unresolved issues in Sudan and South Sudan that I have already mentioned, we face the reverberations of conflicts outside our immediate region, indeed beyond the boundaries of Africa, in Yemen and the Arabian Gulf.
These conflicts are of pressing concern to us. The Arabs of Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula are our brothers and sisters; they are fellow human beings whose suffering demands our solidarity and compassion, and whose political problems demand our attention.
Indeed, as the late Ali Mazrui reminds us, the Red Sea is no more nor less arbitrary a divider of peoples than the Sahara Desert: the people of the Arabian shore of the Red Sea share culture, language, religion and faith with those on the African shore, and the Red Sea should properly be seen as a bond uniting us rather than a rift that divides us.
I hope that one of the steps following on from this strategic consultation will be an effort to seek to bridge this rift and to find a common vision for peace, security, prosperity and cooperation among all the countries of the Red Sea Arena, from the headwaters of the Nile river to the shores of the Arabian Gulf, and from the Levant to the Gulf of Aden.
This strategic consultation is the outcome of the commitment undertaken by the mandated organs of the African Union four years ago, and the pressing issues that have arisen in the meantime. Our agenda is framed by the commitments, norms and principles enshrined in the Constitutive Act of the African Union, and the decisions of the AU and IGAD over the intervening years.
Among these, I wish to draw particular attention to the 2005 Khartoum Conference to Launch the IGAD Strategy on Peace and Security Discourse, which enunciated a set of principles to guide the fashioning of a regional peace and security framework, including the development of national security doctrines and strategies among IGAD member states. This was a far-sighted initiative that brought together not just political leaders and senior government officials but also leading academics and members of civil society to establish a shared understanding for a ‘security community’ in this region. More than a decade has passed but the vision and strategy remain as relevant as ever.
We wish you fruitful deliberations.