Malawi elections provide a global lesson in democracy

Malawi’s President elect Lazarus Chakwera (L) and First Lady Monica Chakwera (R), leaves his inauguration at the Kamuzu Baracks, the Malawi Defence Force Headquarters, in Lilongwe on July 6, 2020. (Photo by AMOS GUMULIRA / AFP)

While outgoing US President Donald Trump has repeated tantrums at the prospect of leaving the White House, a lesson in democracy from Malawi is worth paying closer attention to. Lazarus Chakwera was inaugurated as Malawi’s sixth president on 6 July 2020 after winning a historic election, which was held after the judiciary overturned the 2019 presidential election and called for a fresh election. This is only the second time this has happened in an African country.

Against all odds, the defeated incumbent — Peter Mutharika — stepped down. Chakwera and his running mate, Saulos Chilima, together achieved more than they had individually in the previous election when they both stood as independent candidates. Chakwera’s Tonse Alliance with Chilima was supported by most other opposition parties. Moreover, the election was held during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic and without external election observers.

With democracy at risk of backsliding across the globe, comprehending the genesis of Malawi’s opposition coalition may prove beneficial to opposition parties and pro-democracy activists across the world.

For Chakwera and Chilima, running separately in 2019 paved the way for Mutharika to remain in power for longer. Mutharika won 38.57% of the vote against Chakwera’s 35.41%. The political reality at the time was complex, but it is obvious in hindsight that senior figures in the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) had to be convinced to step aside and free positions for Chilima and his United Transformation Movement (UTM) colleagues.

The importance of this dynamic for forging a successful coalition cannot be overstated. Chilima set aside his personal political ambitions for the collective good of removing the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) from power. In 2020, the Tonse Alliance’s masterstroke resulted in the coalition securing a sufficiently large winning margin (17 percentage point) that made it all but impossible for governing party to rig the outcome.

In recent elections in Tanzania, the opposition emulated the Malawian coalition experience. Initially, opposition parties were set to head to the polls without an alliance to unseat the governing Chama Cha Mapinduzi. However, the two leading opposition parties, Chadema and ACT-Wazalendo, formed a “loose collaboration” and endorsed a common candidate in each region. Unfortunately, the results did not emulate that of the Tonse Alliance, but the value of forming coalitions to unseat incumbents appears to be gaining traction beyond Malawi.

The MCP and UTM had initially challenged the 2019 election result separately. Lilongwe high court Judge Charles Mkandawire shrewdly requested the respective plaintiffs be joined as parties in the action. Satisfied that the two cases were of a constitutional nature, he needed Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda’s certification to have them heard in the Constitutional Court. During the Constitutional Court proceedings, political serendipity struck: a bond formed between Chakwera and Chilima as they shared a bench under a tree outside the courtroom during recess.

Coinciding with this judicial process, the chairperson of the Malawi Electoral Commission, Justice Jane Ansah, resigned. The 2020 election may not have taken place had Justice Chifundo Kachale not been appointed as her replacement. Kachale, committed to electoral independence, navigated a combination of political and logistical obstacles, despite taking charge only two weeks before the election. For instance, he was able to persuade the government to release funding for the election and to implement measures to prevent earlier widespread irregularities, including the use of correction fluid on ballots. His role reinforces the truth that both individual agency and institutional structure matter.

The boldness of the Malawian judiciary in checking executive power and upholding critical election-governance structures is laudable. It should catalyse regional pro-democracy activists to advocate for judicial independence, especially where the judiciary has been co-opted and corrupted, like in Zimbabwe. The judiciary’s ability to hold the executive to account is one of the most crucial elements of establishing the rule of law, without which democracy is dead in the water. Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, during a state visit from Chakwera in early October, failed to appreciate the “legal miracle” that had played out in Malawi or see its positive long-term consequences. He chose instead to selectively note that election observers were unnecessary for democracy. Election observers are typically deployed to help safeguard voting integrity.

After the success of the re-run Malawi election, one would have expected the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to adopt the obvious lessons from the Malawi experience regarding the “home-grown ownership” of their election process during the Covid-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, these were instead subverted, resulting in further electoral instability in the region. For instance, SADC did not deploy a physical SADC electoral observation mission to Tanzania, presumably under the guise of adhering to Covid-19 restrictions. Instead it held a series of virtual engagements with key electoral stakeholders in preparation for the election. These ultimately provided unfruitful for upholding any kind of electoral credibility.

External observers are useful and important, but cannot provide a substitute for the fundamental requirements of independent institutions. Judicial independence, coupled with electoral commission independence, are irreplaceable building blocks for democracy.

In short, there is no easy formula to follow for opposition parties seeking positive election outcomes. Several factors need to be in place simultaneously. However, if opposition parties had to choose one factor to build on from Malawi’s experience, it is the importance of opposition candidates with similar election ideologies putting aside personal ambitions and rivalries in favour of a more collective united stand at the polls.

Craig Moffat is head of programme: governance delivery & impact at Good Governance Africa

This article first appeared in the Mail & Guardian here


Craig Moffat, PhD is the Head of Programme: Governance Delivery and Impact for Good Governance Africa’s National Security Programme. He has more than 17 years of practical experience working for government institutions and multilateral organisations. He was previously employed by the South African Foreign Service, where he worked extensively at identifying and analysing security threats towards South Africa as well as the southern Africa region. Previously, he was the political advisor for the Pretoria Regional Delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross. He holds a PhD in Political Science from Stellenbosch University.

5th Annual GRC Africa 2020

Nairobi, Kenya – February 29th, 2012: Unidentified boys take a water for drinking on a street of Kibera on February 29, 2012 in Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya.

With the changing compliance landscape, the need for professionals with data protection knowledge has never been greater. For example, the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requires organisations to appoint a Data Protection Office (DPO), who will be independent and will report to the regulator. This Data Protection & Governance training will help the attendees to connect the dots in understanding all their data to govern and protect it to mitigate any possible risk. 

Good Governance Africa’s SADC Executive Director Chris Maroleng opened the 5th annual GRC Africa conference, where he dove into the different areas of governance, risk and compliance (GRC) and how to achieve the right balance between these three pillars of modern business. To watch the full video, click below:


US President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris deliver remarks in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 7, 2020, after being declared the winners of the presidential election. PHOTO Andrew Harnik /POOL/AFP



This month’s presidential election in the United States has highlighted the vexing and universal conundrum of how to govern in the presence of deep disagreements in society.

This governance challenge stems from sharp cleavages in society, that, while in historical terms are not new, remain real and entrenched.

The mandate president-elect Joe Biden has received after the greatest voter turnout in 120 years in the United States must be seen by him as a mandate to govern through co-operation with various constituencies, and as a way of addressing fundamental injustices through a transformative agenda.

It is a strong endorsement to govern by consensus rather than to dominate through centralised, authoritarian practices. This would be in stark contrast to his predecessor’s autocratic approach which failed to resolve grievances but instead exploited them through populist rhetoric.

In the midst substantive criticism about fragility in the US governance system, GGA would argue that this electoral outcome and the strength of institutions of governance, presents us with a converse argument: that the United States’ democratic parameters are indeed robust, and that its electoral system is characterised by strong institutions and processes that act as checks and balances against the vagaries of populist and autocratic administrations.

The country’s founders built this protection into the constitution precisely to safeguard the American people against autocracy and tyranny.

The key takeout for Africa is that it is by governing with an interest in addressing legitimate grievances that true consensus is formed, which leads to greater peace and prosperity amongst the people and those who would govern.


Chris Maroleng Executive Director GGA SADC Africa
For further comment please contact:
Chris Maroleng: + 27 (0)73 274 6501/

Going deep into Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado extremism

To counter violent extremism in places such as Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado properly, it’s necessary to understand the root causes of such conflicts and how mining operations can worsen them

Since October 2017, Cabo Delgado province in northern Mozambique has been the site of an escalating insurgency, led by Islamist militant group Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jammah (ASWJ), which has claimed the lives of about 1,500 people and displaced 310,000.

On August 12 militants captured the port of Mocímboa da Praia, 60km south of the Afungi peninsula, where major liquid natural gas (LNG) export facilities are being developed for offshore reservoirs, reviving concerns about the effect of the conflict on LNG projects.

Both the government and mining companies routinely emphasise the enormous economic opportunity the LNG projects will bring to Mozambique and the “trickle down” potential they have for communities in terms of “job creation, supply and associated services industries”.

In reality, however, mining operations have routinely failed to benefit local communities. Many such projects have created unmet economic expectations, generated human rights violations, reinforced ethno-religious inequalities and dispossessed local communities of their land.

In the case of Cabo Delgado, several analysts and President Filipe Nyusi himself have attributed the conflict to high levels of poverty and unemployment, and noted that these conditions are being exploited by foreign and local militants looking to recruit members. So rather than asking what impact the conflict will have on the LNG sector, we should ask what impact the LNG sector is having on local communities if we are to better understand how to prevent and counter violent extremism.

Unemployment and poverty alone do not predict the emergence of violent extremist organisations. Several studies show that relative deprivation, perceptions of marginalisation and discrimination, violation of human rights and a history of hostility between identity groups are far more relevant in predicting where such groups will emerge and how they will recruit from local populations.

But when mining companies enter regions where these issues are already present, they can greatly aggravate them.

The dark side of coal mining

In Mozambique’s coal-rich Tete province many of the local communities that were resettled due to mining operations have faced significant and sustained disruptions in obtaining food, water and work.

In 2015, Oxfam and the University of Queensland’s Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining published a study of the resettlement of 736 households (about 3,680 people) to make way for the Benga coal mine. It provides an insight into how poorly planned and chaotic these processes can be when there is a surge of foreign interest and competition that creates a context of rapid economic growth, limited regulatory capacity and intense pressure on land availability.

In 2011, Rio Tinto bought the mine for $3.7bn from Riversdale Mining. Three years later, after recognising an impairment of $2.86bn, it sold the mine to an Indian conglomerate for $50m — less than 1.35% of the original price. During this period, a poorly planned and chaotic resettlement process was forced upon local communities, with disastrous consequences.

The study found: “In addition to food and water insecurity and the loss of supplementary income, the stress and trauma associated with forced displacement has fractured social networks and eroded trust between community members, local leaders, and company and government representatives.

“Uncertainty about the future, limited access to information and deficiencies in remedy processes further diminish the likelihood of recovery in a low-capacity environment.”

Unsurprisingly, there have been several major protests by affected communities, many of them violent.

Ruby ructions in Montepuez

In April 2009 rubies were discovered near the city of Montepuez in Cabo Delgado. By the end of 2010 thousands of artisanal miners, or garimpeiros, were mining the deposits.

In June 2011, Mwiriti Limitada, a Mozambican company owned by army Gen Raimundo Pachinuapa, a senior member of ruling party Frelimo, and London-based Gemfields signed a 25%-75% joint venture agreement to form Montepuez Ruby Mining (MRM).

MRM subsequently won mining rights to a 34,000ha concession.

Over the next three years, multiple instances came to light of artisanal miners allegedly being beaten, shot and buried alive by the Mozambican police, the country’s environment protection agency and private security companies.

There were also cases of local communities being forcibly removed from their land and of villages being razed to make way for MRM mining activities.

In 2018, while denying liability, Gemfields publicly recognised that “instances of violence have occurred on and around the MRM licence area, both before and after Gemfields’ arrival in Montepuez”.

The company then agreed to pay £5.8m to settle a case, brought before the London Supreme Court, in which 273 complainants alleged human rights abuses.

Back in Mozambique, there was little judicial action. The attorney-general announced an investigation, but it was never concluded. No serious steps were taken to seek justice for victims or to put policies in place to address the use of force against communities affected by the extractive industry.

Fallout in the Rovuma Basin

In 2010 significant deposits of high-quality natural gas were found off the coast of Cabo Delgado. Today the province is home to Africa’s three largest LNG projects: the $20bn Mozambique LNG Project led by Total; the $4.7bn Coral FLNG Project led by ENI and ExxonMobil; and the $30bn Rovuma LNG Project led by ExxonMobil, ENI and CNPC.

Hundreds of families have been forced to resettle away from their ancestral farmland and fishing grounds to make way for onshore support facilities for the projects.

A March 2020 report by environmental body Justiça Ambiental argues that the resettlement process was deeply flawed: communities were not adequately consulted, lacked knowledge about their rights and were too intimidated to voice discontent for fear of retribution.

Speculative investing in land in anticipation of the gas boom — often by Frelimo elites — has also fuelled resentment among villagers, who continue to lose access to land and sustainable livelihoods.

In rural areas particularly, land is inextricably linked not only to livelihoods but also to identity, culture and history.

Some of the strongest research on violent extremism, by scholars such as psychologist John Horgan, suggests that radicalisation is a process deeply connected with identity. In this context land dispossession may be particularly damaging to the psychological, social, and cultural resources that sustain a sense of wellbeing and bolster resilience to radicalisation.

The displacement and marginalisation of coastal communities in Cabo Delgado is especially concerning, given pre-existing ethno-religious fault lines.

The Cabo Delgado coastal zone has traditionally been occupied by the Muslim Kimwani-speaking people, who rely predominantly on trading, fishing and seafaring.

Many Muslims in the province backed Frelimo’s independence struggle against the Portuguese. However, since the first multiparty elections in 1994, Kimwani speakers have tended to vote for Renamo, and results in Mocímboa da Praia have been close.

As journalist Joseph Hanlon writes: “Local Muslim leaders have always been annoyed that their role in the independence struggle was not recognised, and they see the largely Christian Makonde speakers from Mueda and Muidumbe districts dominating Frelimo and moving into the coastal areas.”

Today, the Makonde form the local elite in Cabo Delgado, while the Kimwani-speaking people are among the poorest in the province and the most negatively affected by the LNG projects.

It is unlikely that the substantial number of jobs created by the LNG projects will go to local coastal communities, given low levels of formal education and the investment in training and support needed to equip community members with the requisite skills.

Any poverty reduction from jobs that do go to these communities has likely already been offset by the thousands of local citizens who have lost access to fishing grounds and small-scale agricultural production.

For communities living in the region, the security situation has deteriorated significantly over the past two years. Not only have they been victim to dozens of attacks by ASWJ, but the region has become highly securitised. Local communities report “living [in] constant fear of mistreatment by the military and by private security actors rather than feeling protected from the attacks”.

In late August, Total’s subsidiary in the region announced it had signed a memorandum of understanding with the government. The government will deploy a joint task force from the defence and security forces (FDS) to ensure security. In return, the Mozambique LNG project will provide logistical support to the FDS, including equipment and subsidies for troops.

As Mozambique’s Centre for Democratic Development notes: “In allowing the deployment of FDS troops to protect private interests in exchange for monetary payments, the government is privatising the FDS services and, consequently, violating the Defence & Security Policy.”

The FDS is already stretched beyond the point where it can effectively protect communities in Cabo Delgado.

While the defence of strategic interests is one of the fundamental roles of the ministry of defence, it is easy to see how this relationship between the military and LNG sector would be viewed differently by a local population exposed to violence at the hands of armed groups, private military companies and government security forces on a weekly basis.

The UN secretary-general’s plan of action to prevent violent extremism emphasises the need for a “whole of society” response, including sustainable development, humanitarian action and upholding human rights and the rule of law.

In Mozambique in particular, the mining sector has an outsized responsibility to prevent and counter violent extremism.

Mining companies will have to work with the government to tackle the grievances already generated by the sector — particularly around disputed resettlement processes and human rights violations — and work to address the underlying causes of extremism.

Natural gas revenues will only begin to accrue by 2024, so there is still time for Mozambique to prioritise sustainable development, inclusive growth and better policies to manage large extractive industry investments.

An Angolan scenario, where a political elite captures all the local content opportunities, will only serve to increase grievances and swell the ranks of the insurgency.

This article first appeared in the Financial Mail here


Stephen Buchanan-Clarke is a security analyst with several years of experience working in both conflict and post-conflict settings in Africa, primarily on issues of peace and security; transitional justice and reconciliation; democratisation and governance; and preventing and countering violent extremism. He currently serves as head of the Human Security and Climate Change (HSCC) project at Good Governance Africa and is a co-editor of the Extremisms in Africa anthology series.

Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa

9th Tana Forum | 19-24 October | #TanaForum #TanaOnline

1. Introduction: Concept and origin

With the aim of playing a crucial role in bringing about sustainable peace and contributing to the implementation of the African Union Tripoli Declaration of August 2009, the Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS) at Addis Ababa University convenes an annual flagship security conference called the Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa, now popularly known as the Tana Forum. This initiative is a response to the Tripoli Declaration’s appeal for “African-centred solutions” and the treatment of peace and security as a collective “intellectual challenge.”

Since it was first initiated in collaboration with eminent African personalities, including Meles Zenawi, the late Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, the Tana Forum has emerged as an independent and informal gathering of African decision-makers, leaders of thought, stakeholder groups and their larger constituencies for an open discussion on the pressing peace and security issues and challenges facing the continent.

2. Overall and specific objectives

The overall objective of the Tana Forum is to serve as a platform where African peace and security issues are discussed in order to allow high-level decision-makers within and outside the continent develop new and innovative solutions to the myriad peace and security situations confronting the continent.

Specifically, the Forum aims at:

• Providing opportunities to decision-making leaders and institutions to exchange experiences and insights on peace and security issues among themselves with a view to gaining new perspectives required to resolve critical peace and security problems;

• Giving opportunities to political decision-makers to interact and consult with a critical mass of African constituency and key global actors in the peace, security and development sectors;

• Contributing to an open and substantive debate on peace and security issues of strategic importance to the continent vis-à-vis the rest of the world;

• Communicating with and listening to “profound African voices on the ground” on various dimensions and components of peace and security concerns across the continent, thus facilitating the much-desired inclusive dialogue among governments and other African security stakeholders;

• Sensitizing and mobilizing a broad spectrum of actors and stakeholders to promote awareness of, and the imperative for, African ownership of peace and security solutions.

3. Expected results

In achieving its main and specific objectives, the Forum will result in:

• The continuous conceptualization and projection of the peace and security issues affecting the continent from the perspective of African citizens and governments. In that regard, substantial attention will be given to the emerging body of “home-grown” African approaches to peace and security challenges and prospects;

• The building of a vibrant and broad-based constituency on peace and security issues through the establishment of non-threatening platforms for dialogue, networking and exchange of information between policy-makers, researchers and practitioners. To sustain such platforms, a cross-section of leaders from different sectors will be called upon to act as interlocutors and champions with a view to mobilising “top-down” as well as “bottom-up” African voices on the peace and security priorities the continent should be pursuing;

• Progressively engaging Africa in the strategic and pro-active management of peace and security in the continent. Key to that effort will be the development of foresight capacities throughout relevant national, regional and continental organizations across the public, private and civil society sectors.

4. Forum strategy

Participation: The Forum will bring together high-level decision-makers on peace and security drawn from the governmental spheres (HoSGs, AU organs and RECs); non-African regional institutions (UN, EU); the African private sector and civil society networks as well as scholars and practitioners of peace and security.

Discussion format: Discussions will be designed in order to: (i) facilitate a seamless exchange of views and experiences in an open, informal and independent manner, (ii) be action-oriented and forward looking, and (iii) maintain its very essence as a consultative, rather than decision-making, forum. The format will mostly be in the form of interactive panel discussions that actively includes and involves all participants. The Forum and its related events will be organized virtually from 19-24 October, 2020.

Impact and effectiveness: The Forum is convened on an annual basis. It has, in the short period of its existence, become a flagship platform and institution in its own right. This contributes to a continuous dialogue among top African leaders and various stakeholder groups. It enables leaders to explore options for innovative and joint action in peace and security. The Forum also allows for trust building among key players who would often only meet in settings that are mediated and/or constrained by diplomatic protocol.

5. Tana Board

Current board members serving for a three-year term:

H.E. John Dramani Mahama (Chairperson), Former President, Republic of Ghana

H.E. Hailemariam Desalegn, Former Prime Minister, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

H.E. Dr. Joyce Banda, Former President, Republic of Malawi

Amb. Lakhdar Brahimi, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, People’s Republic of Algeria and former United Nations and Arab League  Special Envoy to Syria

Dr. Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary, Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), Austria/Burkina Faso

Amb. Soad M. Shalaby, Director General, Egyptian African Centre for Women (EACW), Egypt

Mr. Alain Foka, Journalist, Radio France International, France/Cameroon

H.E. Catherine Samba-Panza, Former President, Central African Republic

Prof. Patrick Loch Otieno Lumumba, Former Director and Chief Executive Officer, Kenya School of Laws, Kenya

Former board members:

• H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Federal Republic of Nigeria (former Chairperson)

• H.E. Thabo Mbeki, former President of the Republic of South Africa

• H.E. Pierre Buyoya, former President of the Republic of Burundi

• Prof. Andreas Eshete, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister with the rank of a Minister, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (former Deputy Chairperson)

• Dr. Tedros Adhanom, Director General, World Health Organization and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

• Prof. Ndioro Ndiaye, former Minister for Social Development/former Minister for Women’s, Children’s and Family Affairs, Republic of Senegal

• Ms. Betty Bigombe, former State Minister of Water Resources, Republic of Uganda and former Director of Fragility, Conflict and Violence, World Bank

• H.E. Hirut Zemene, Former State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

• Prof. ‘Funmi Olonisakin, Vice President/Principal (International), King’s College London and Founding Director, African Leadership Centre

• Prof. Mahmood Mamdani, Executive Director, Makerere Institute of Social Research, Uganda

• Prof. Souleymane Bachir Diagne, Professor at Columbia University, Department of Philosophy and Francophone Studies, USA

• Amb. Berhane Gebre-Christos, Former Diplomat, Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ethiopia

• H.E. Temesgen Tiruneh, President, Amhara National Regional State, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and Former Director General, Information Network Security Agency (INSA)

• Dr Hashim Tewfik, Former Deputy Director, National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), Ethiopia

• H.E. Luísa Dias Diogo, Former Prime Minister, Republic of Mozambique

6. The Technical Committee

The Technical Committee’s role is to provide advice to the Tana Secretariat on agenda setting and the organization of the Forum. The Committee aims to advise the Secretariat on procedures and content to strengthen the Forum’s capacity to generate fruitful discussions and give participants a meaningful experience. The current members of the Technical Committee are:

  • Mr. Alex Ratebaye Tordeta (Chairperson)- Chad – Deputy Chief of Staff, African Union Commission
  • Dr. iur Mehari Taddele Maru – Ethiopia – International Consultant on African Union affairs and a Research Fellow at the NATO Defense College
  • Ms Semiha Adbdulmelik – Ethiopia – Governance and Policy Analyst/former Senior Political Affairs Officer, Peace and Security Department, African Union Commission
  • Ms Hafsa Maalim – Kenya – Senior Horn of Africa Analyst at International IDEA, African Union Peace and Security Department
  • Ms Hannah Tsadik – Ethiopia – Director of Global Policy, Life & Peace Institute
  • Dr. Jide M. Okeke – Nigeria – Regional Programme Coordinator, Regional Programme for Africa, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
  • Dr. George Mukundi – Kenya/South Africa – CEO, Maendeleo Group
  • Ms. Haja Saramba Kandeh – Sierra Leone – Legal and Gender Associate, AIDS-Free World
  • Dr. Yonas Adaye – Ethiopia – Director, Institute for Peace and Security Studies
  • Mrs Michelle Ndiaye (Ex-Officio) – Senegal – Former Director, Africa Peace and Security Programme, Institute for Peace and Security Studies and Former Head of the Tana Forum Secretariat.

7. The Tana Forum Secretariat

The Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS) at Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia, acts as the Forum’s Secretariat. Parallel to the Forum and hosting its Secretariat, IPSS hosts the Africa Peace and Security Programme (APSP), a joint project with the African Union. The APSP mission is to build African capacities to develop and implement African-led solutions in the peace and security sector. In this context, the outcomes of the Forum will also feed into and inform the Institute’s activities in education, research and policy dialogues.

8. Forum Status

The maiden Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa took place from 14 to 15 April 2012 in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, on the theme “Managing Diversity and State Fragility.” It attracted current and former Heads of State and Government, distinguished leaders of regional and sub-regional bodies, representatives from the private sector, concerned civil society from Africa, eminent personalities from politics and media, representatives of African and non-African multi-lateral bodies, and other important partners attended the Forum.

The 2nd edition of the Forum took place from 20 to 21 April 2013 in the same location. Stakeholders met to discuss the theme “Security and Organized Crime in Africa”, and to pay tribute to the Forum’s foremost champion, the late Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi. The annual Meles Zenawi Lecture Series was also established this year.

The 3rd Tana Forum took place from 26 to 27 April 2014 in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, and discussed a timely and salient topic for the continent, the “Impact of Illicit Financial Flows on Peace and Security in Africa”. The Forum’s annual Meles Zenawi Lecture paid tribute to Africa’s greatest icon, the late President Nelson Mandela.

The 4th Tana Forum met under the theme of “Secularism and Politicized Faith” and took place from 18 to 19 April 2015 in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. African Heads of State and stakeholders together with eminent leaders drawn from all religious sectors. The annual Meles Zenawi Lecture paid tribute to the influential advocate of Pan-Africanism, Kwame Nkrumah.

The 5th Tana Forum convened on 16 to 17 April 2016 under the theme “Africa in the Global Security Agenda”. Following the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, it explored Africa’s role in the international security arena. In addition, the annual Meles Zenawi Lecture debated the legacy of Patrice Lumumba.

The 6th Tana Forum was convened on 22 to 23 April 2017 under the theme ‘’Natural Resource Governance in Africa”. Whereas debates around the governance of natural resources have understandably been fixated within the extractive sector, the 6th Tana Forum broadened the scope to include issues around the governance of other critical natural resources, especially land, water, the seas, and forests and biodiversity. The Forum’s annual Meles Zenawi Lecture paid tribute to the Nobel Peace Prize winner and Kenyan environmental and political rights advocate, late Dr. Wangari Muta Maathai.

The 7th Tana Forum took place on 21 to 22 April 2018 on the theme “Ownership of Africa’s Peace and Security Provision: Financing and Reforming the African Union”. In a rapidly changing global and African policy environment, there is an obvious need for more powerful and effective AU and allied institutions with the capacity to assume forward-looking leadership and ownership of continental and global peace and security agenda. The Forum’s annual Meles Zenawi Lecture paid tribute to late Gamal Abdel Nasser, Former President of Egypt.

The 8th Tana Forum, which took place from 4 to 5 May 2019 in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, discussed the theme of “Political Dynamics in the Horn of Africa: Nurturing the Emerging Peace Trends”. In line with recent political developments in the Horn of Africa and the multiplier effects of the nudge towards rapprochement between Ethiopia and Eritrea, the event touched upon a wide range of governance, security, developmental issues in the region, and also deliberated on ways to support, advance and consolidate them. The annual Meles Zenawi Lecture paid tribute to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the South African anti-apartheid activist and politician.

The 9th Tana Forum, will take place virtually from 19 to 24 October 2020 on the theme “The AfCFTA: Revitalizing Pan Africanism for Sustainable Peace and Development in Africa”. The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) is believed to be an unprecedented initiative to generate vast economies of scale on an intra-continental basis, principally by eliminating 90 per cent of tariffs on goods and significantly reducing non-tariff barriers (NTBs) on merchandise and services, such as differences in licensing regimes and regulatory standards. The CFTA provides stakeholders across various industries with the opportunity for large-scale production and access to continental market inputs both in terms of natural and human resources. Through the coordination and facilitation of trade policies and instruments across RECs and across Africa in general, the agreement aims to promote and expedite regional and continental integration processes both in economic and socio-cultural terms. The Annual Meles Zenawi Lecture Series will pay tributes to the late former President of the Republic of Tanzania Benjamin Mkapa; peacemaker and pan-African advocate, as well as Professor Thandika Mkandawire; Malawian economist and intellectual giant.

According to the Secretariat’s policy, participation is strictly by invitation only and as such invitation is non-transferable. A maximum of 500 invited participants are expected to attend the 2020 Tana Forum. For more information please visit our website or forward enquiries to the organizing team at

Watch below as Good Governance Africa’ SADC Executive Director Chris Maroleng concludes the security conference

Video courtesy of Tana Forum

President Mnangagwa is questioning the need for election observers … and it’s not hard to work out why

Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa attends a meeting with civil society organisations on August 22, 2020 at the State House in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. – Civil society groups met the president among other stakeholders for talks on the exhumation and reburial of Gukurahundi massacre victims. Some 20,000 people were killed during the 1980s, when late ex-president Robert Mugabe led a military-style crackdown on alleged militants known as Gukurahundi. (Photo by ZINYANGE AUNTONY / AFP)

On a recent state visit to Zimbabwe, President Emmerson Mnangagwa praised Malawi for successfully holding its election re-run without the presence of foreign observers and questioned whether they were required for polls in the region.

Sound familiar?

In 2011, the then British Ambassador to Zimbabwe sought clarity on whether Western observers would be allowed into the country. Mugabe answered explicitly in the negative: “Zimbabwe cannot invite people who have imposed sanctions on her to be observers because by imposing sanctions, Britain has demonstrated her dislike of one side while favouring the other.” Since then Zimbabwe has remained under sanctions from Britain, the European Union and the United States of America. Most international election observers are commonly drawn from these countries and are generally deployed in the region to help safeguard voting integrity.

Mnangagwa’s sentiment runs very similar to his predecessor’s when complimenting Malawi. Mnangagwa stated: “Here is a country which has held … elections without the United Nations, without SADC and almost all of these civil society organisations observing the elections, but they were successful, peaceful elections conducted by Malawi on its own … This makes us think whether it’s still necessary in future for SADC countries to look for supervisors from across oceans.”

While the success of Malawi’s re-run election should be commended, it must be noted that the election took place under extraordinary circumstances, namely the Covid-19 pandemic, making the absence of international observers more an act of fate than design. Travel restrictions, quarantine rules and health considerations in connection with Covid-19 also impacted the non-attendance of international election observers. However, it remains a seminal election because it was the first on the continent held as a result of a court overturning an election result.

We must question Mnangagwa’s true intentions for questioning foreign election observer teams deployed in his country.

In the absence of foreign election observers, how can Zimbabwe’s future elections be protected? Who all falls into the foreign election observers’ basket? Does it include the African Union and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) observer teams as well? Fortunately, for the sake of good governance and accountability, it is highly unlikely that either the continental or regional organisation would agree to a request to not deploy their election observer teams in the absence of Covid-19 restrictions.

Lessons from Malawi for Zimbabwe

Instead of subverting the lessons from the Malawi experience, Mnangagwa might rather learn and benefit from them, which may assist in the consolidation of democracy and good governance in Zimbabwe.

While there was the full participation of all political parties, doubts persisted relating to the timing of the re-run election, lack of international assistance and observers. A key lesson was Malawi’s adoption of a ‘home-grown ownership’ of the election process. While there were no international election observers present, embassies, the UN and international organisations with a pre-existing presence in the country were accredited as observers. There were also national election observers from about 20 different local stakeholders, including civil society groups, academia, ecclesiastical and human rights organisations. Most agreed that the re-run election process and results were legitimate. Malawi should be applauded for the manner, under very trying circumstances, in which it conducted a credible election.

Mnangagwa fails to appreciate the positive long-term effects of the ‘legal miracle’ that played out in the 2020 Malawi election, that was extraordinary because as stated it was the first on the continent held as a result of a court overturning an election result. Moreover, the incumbent was defeated and stepped down. The boldness of the Malawian judiciary in checking executive power and upholding critical election governance structures is laudable. It should catalyse regional pro-democracy activists to advocate for judicial independence, especially where the judiciary has been co-opted and corrupted, as in Zimbabwe. One should read between the lines when Mnangagwa focuses only on the absence of foreign observers rather than on the fact that the incumbent stepped down. The judiciary’s ability to hold the executive to account is one of the most crucial elements of establishing the rule of law.

A further lesson to be adopted from Malawi’s election relates to the finalisation of election reports typically produced by international election observer teams. A fundamental limitation was exposed in that most international observers compiled their reports based on the formal framework of the election, including the pre-and post-election periods. However, from the Malawi experience, the major contestation arose from the ballot counting process itself in the 2019 elections. By the time the results had been tallied, most observers had either left the country or completed their deployment and had submitted their election observation reports. This resulted in a situation whereby the international election observation reports unwittingly created the misconception that the election was held in a free, fair, transparent and credible manner and was in fact used as a justification by former President Mutharika to endorse his flawed election victory.

Herein lies the lesson: the international election observers may have unwittingly contributed to the polarised situation that followed. Rather than simply questioning the efficacy of international election observers, regarding upcoming elections in the region, Mnangagwa should instead call for a careful study of the Malawian experience. This would help him to better understand the important lessons for future international election observer deployments as well as to develop measures to ensure that the irregularities of Malawi’s 2019 election and Zimbabwe’s 2018 elections do not create opportunities for the incumbent to abuse.

Playing the blame game

Mnangagwa’s utterances betray the fact that his regime would rather avoid electoral accountability altogether. Nonetheless, the fact that he commented at all suggests that we can assume that he harbours some residual concerns about the validity of future election outcomes in Zimbabwe.

Ironically, if indeed international election observers were stopped from observing, who will he blame for foreign interference and where will he find a plausible excuse for possible electoral fraud? Mnangagwa stated: “It’s a question which we are still interrogating.” For the sake of good governance and the consolidation of democracy, we can only hope in his statement he is referring to the “royal we” and does not include the other SADC regional leaders.

This article first appeared in Democracy In Africa here

Craig Moffat, PhD is the Head of Programme: Governance Delivery and Impact for Good Governance Africa’s National Security Programme. He has more than 17 years of practical experience working for government institutions and multilateral organisations. He was previously employed by the South African Foreign Service, where he worked extensively at identifying and analysing security threats towards South Africa as well as the southern Africa region. Previously, he was the political advisor for the Pretoria Regional Delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross. He holds a PhD in Political Science from Stellenbosch University.