The East African region is home to sources of insecurity that are increasingly non-military.
By Emma Jones
The East African region is home to sources of insecurity that are increasingly non-military, beyond the control of individual governments and cross-state borders without discrimination.
The Brookings Institution has previously hailed East Africa for its remarkable progress on regional integration, institutional reforms, greater political stability, and investments in national and regional infrastructure which returned positive economic growth in the medium term.
However, porous borders, rapid changes in climate and increases in unplanned rural/urban migration to strained cities mean that East African populations are both affected by and present security challenges within and between states. Such issues are further complicated by the proliferation of small arms and light weapons (SALWs), refugee flows, land grabs, trafficking, terrorism and the impacts of globalization, including big business.
In 2010, the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) made some epic economic projections and estimated that the collective GDP of Africa would reach US$2.6 trillion by 2020.
In 2013, Africa’s GDP was US$2.2 trillion. Rapid financial growth can present significant security challenges particularly for a conflict-affected region in a continent that has had a threefold increase in GDP since 2013; one of the fastest economic growth rates in history, according to Africa’s Time.
Interestingly, the MGI attributed Africa’s rapid economic growth primarily to improved political and macroeconomic stability (as well as microeconomic reforms). Simply put, this means that across the continent, societies and states were calm enough, for long enough, and on a big enough scale, for economic reforms to reap rewards. In other word, there was enough peace to invest in and benefit from business, particularly for international players – largely thanks to government moves to end armed conflicts.
Dr. Lopes, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, and others rightly hail the next decade as ‘Africa’s Time’ but being able to maintain such incredible economic growth across the continent assumes that peace will prevail.
Regional peace has, to an extent, been crafted with the East African Standby Force (EASF), a regional component of the African Standby Force (ASF), but must now develop beyond the military to engage other key stakeholders. These and other issues were raised at the 5th Regional Security Roundtable organized by Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE, Uganda) and the Peace Studies Department at the University of Bradford (UK) and hosted at the Nairobi-based International Peace Support Training Centre (IPSTC) from the 20th- 22nd of October.
Soldiers from the long-awaited African Standby Force, viewed through the gun sights of another vehicle, take part in their first training exercise in SA. The 25,000-strong force should be operational by January.
Participants agreed that it might be wise to ensure that regional peace is proactively pursued by addressing the emerging security issues in East Africa and demonstrated a highly pragmatic approach to building regional peace.
The two-day conference showcased original perspectives, context-specific training, and cutting edge research designed to pursue positive peace underpinned by a softer approach to regional security.
Regional markets and economies cannot grow without peace and the best individual efforts of regional governments or traditional militaries are no longer enough to secure the region due to the nature of contemporary regional security threats.
East Africa needs investment in pragmatic peace with a regional peace and security architecture to foster a holistic peace (beyond national defense and security) to harness and sustain the region’s socioeconomic transformation amidst the recent economic growth.
For a region that has very recent memories of violence amidst ongoing conflicts, drawing on the knowledge and experience of East African scholars, think-tanks and peace training academies provides practical answers for pioneering a pragmatic peace. One option discussed during the 5th Regional Security Roundtable for safeguarding Africa’s evolving peace dividends is a regional peace and security architecture.
Discussants recognized the cost of overlooking and undervaluing peace. Sources of insecurity are becoming increasingly complex and volatile which requires ever more specialized knowledge of both contemporary security issues and the region itself.
Non-traditional security threats have now evolved beyond armed warfare and can no longer be managed only by states and/or the military for the best interests of East African markets and citizens. Failing to invest in pragmatic peace and developing a regional peace and security architecture is not something the region can afford to do.
Undervaluing peace in the security nexus that is the East and Horn of Africa would be a very effective way to destabilize the necessary foundations for economic growth and socioeconomic transformation in the region and across the continent.
The writer is Program Assistant, Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE)
Does East Africa appreciate the possibility of pragmatic peace?