Publish Date: 06 NOV 2023
Security & Geopolitical Analyst: FO
Lomé Peace and Security Forum Introduction
Between 20 and 23 October 2023, the government of the Republic of Togo hosted the inaugural Lomé Peace and Security Forum. Named after its location, the forum was held in the Hotel 2 Fervier in the capital of the West African state. It drew interest from all over the world. It had states and non-state actors from multiple continents participating. Prime ministers, ministers, former ministers, ambassadors, regional heads of international agencies, civil society organizations across the world, academics, private security practitioners and many interests were present.
The main purpose of the forum was to engage in an honest and open discussion about peace and security across Africa. With so much happening across the continent in recent years regarding issues of stability and security, the timing of the forum was apt. Chaired by Abdisaid Muse Ali the former Foreign Minister and National Security Advisor of Somalia, the program attracted people and organizations of diverse interests and political orientations.
Among the major issues that dominated the forum was the spate of coups that have dented the stability the region "enjoyed" in the region in last three decades. The sanctions that have been imposed on coup makers and their biting consequences were also discussed. The approach to fighting terrorism in the Sahel and other parts of Africa, participatory democracy and early warning systems were among important issues demystified in the forum.
Togo's Role in the Forum
The location for the forum the kind of which was organized last weekend is as important as anything that is discussed. While it is clear that the government of Togo had sponsored the program and provided excellent hospitality to the participants and observers, the coastal state lying adjacent to the Gulf of Guinea has had an interesting history.
Togo was the first country to have experienced a successful coup detat in Sub-Saharan Africa. The coup of 1963 was, however, followed by another four years later in 1967--the last successful one in the country. This has meant that the country has had four leaders since its independence in 1960. Gnassingbe Eyadema, the father and practical predecessor of the current president ruled the country from 1967 until he died in 2005. He was the longest-serving president of Africa at the time.
This notwithstanding, Togo has played important roles in the diplomatic space, generally in Africa and West Africa in particular. The genesis of the Economic Community of West African States was when Eyadema and Yakubu Gowon the military ruler of Nigeria, started the initiative to get an economic alliance for West Africa. After years of efforts, ECOWAS was established. In 2000, the Organisation of African Unity met in Lome, Togo (and a declaration named after the city) to denounce coups d'état and other unconstitutional changes of government in Africa.
Earlier in 1975, the Lomé Convention birthed the trade and aid agreement between the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP)countries and the European Economic Community (ECC). The agreement that led to a final peace in Sierra Leone after a long and brutal civil war was also mediated in Lomé. This, and many others make Togo a good location for a conference that seeks to discuss the recent spate of coups and the brutal consequences of violent extremism in Africa.
Forum Structure and Format
The three-day forum had 7 sessions and four addresses. Of these five were panel sessions. Each panel session had five panel members including the moderators. The panel members included an AU Commissioner, serving ministers from Mali, Burkina Faso and Chad, former prime ministers of Togo and Guinea Bissau and ambassadors. Experts from international non-governmental institutions like the Institute of Security Studies, Brookings Institutions; youth leaders, and academics.
The five panels (three on Saturday and two on Sunday) produced deep insights into the African problem with rich suggestions and recommendations as to the way forward. This was before a ministerial session on Friday that sought to set the tone for the forum. The largely closed-door session had the foreign ministers of Mali and Burkina Faso in attendance. At the end of the ministerial session, there was a consensus among major participants that discussions in the following days should be honest. They also agreed not to turn the forum into another talk shop. It should be both talk and action.
Factors of fragility of state institutions in Africa.
Political and security challenges inhibiting political transition to democratic governance
Building strong institutions and the rule of law in Africa.
International and sub-regional organizations: what role should they play in supporting political transition?
African solutions--mobilizing continental innovation and agility.
The ideas that emerged from the aforementioned topics were diverse and all-encompassing. While some outrightly denounced coups and asked for a faster transfer of power to elected leaders, others insisted that if the underlying conditions that attract coups are not addressed the continent will continue to face the coup threat.
The foreign ministers of Burkina Faso and Mali had stressed solidarity in arguing against sanctions and diplomatic isolation being faced by the respective juntas that are simultaneously managing the insecurity posed by violent extremists. They held that without security, democracy cannot fare any better in junta-led countries. This they called for more time for any meaningful transition to occur.
In response, an official of an international organization argued that if the transition exceeds 12 and 15 months, there is always the likelihood that it will not happen. The back-and-forth about transitions ended with the questions: when is it too long and who determines it?
Also intriguing was an explanation given by Dr Aristides Gomes, former Prime Minister of Guinea-Bissau. He had eloquently given the historical background of the military as an institution in Guinea Bissau, and how that makes it prone to coups d'etat and mutiny. He argued that the country's military emerged from guerrilla fighters who were pursuing independence from the Portuguese. Most of these were peasants who had committed themselves to the cause. After independence, the institution was organized based on comradeship rather than meritocracy. In many cases, people were picked based on their support for the cause and some individuals and not as a result of their patriotism.
Consequently, the country's military has not been strong and professional enough to provide the needed security for a developing country. In the past decade, Guinea-Bissau has become a major transit for drugs being trafficked to Europe and elsewhere.
Speakers and Speeches
Among the many speeches at the forum, the most notable were that of the Prime Minister of Togo, the Interior Minister of Niger and the closing session address by the Chairman of the forum.
The Prime Minister of Togo represented the President who was scheduled to give the main opening address leading to the launch of the summit. The speech outlined the commitment of the government of Togo to ensure a successful forum while mentioning the diplomatic and multilateral significance of Lomé. The first female Prime Minister also expressed hopes that challenges facing the region in recent years could be addressed by some of the recommendations that would emerge from the summit.
For participants of the summit, the surprise moment was in the early hours of Sunday, when the Nigerien Major General and minister of interior of the country's junta was seen in the hotel where the forum and most of its participants were hosted. General Mohammed Toumba, the most visible of the members of Niger's junta backed by an entourage of military and civilian officials was ushered into the conference hall to address the forum on October 22.
While his imposing figure matched his confidence, he had expressed some of the frustrations of the junta to the forum. He bemoaned what he saw to be the lack of solidarity among African governments to governments in the Sahel. He argued that it was unjustified for Nigeria to cut power to Niger despite the latter paying its bills to the former over the years. He posited that sanctions are affecting the people and leading to desperate measures.
On the threat of military intervention by ECOWAS leaders, Toumba was obstinate. He condemned leaders pursuing such actions and threatened that such an invasion would occur if ECOWAS wanted the former president currently put under house arrest by the junta dead. Even for a forum that had urged participants to be candid with their opinions, the General's position could not be "ignored".
Minutes after his speech, it remained "the elephant in the room". A former Togolese Prime minister addressed it. The man who had supervised Togo's transition in the early 1990s had told the General that for as long as the junta keeps the former president hostage, ECOWAS governments are not going to be friendly. He humorously referred to Gabon and drew a contrast to what had happened in the case of Ali Bongo. The deposed president of Gabon was released from house custody not long after the coup that got him out of office.
In the early evening of Sunday, October 23, Mr Abdelsaid Muse Ali officially brought the forum to an end by making among many things the following declarations as officially issued to participants.
Event Introductory Notes
We welcome the launch by Togo, on 03 May 2003, of the African Political Alliance whose first edition of the Lomé Peace and Security Forum is the first flagship activity and the projected plan to organize the 9th Pan-African Congress, which will take place in Lomé in 2024, co-organized by Togo and the African Union on the theme "Renewal of pan-Africanism and the role of Africa in the reform of multilateral institutions: mobilizing resources and reinventing oneself to act".
Forum guide posted here
We invite governments of countries in transition to resolutely direct their actions and the conduct of processes towards the consolidation of democratic governance.
We call for political transitions, which must serve as opportunities to effect change, bold reforms and profound socio-political transformations, more inclusive and participatory.
We further call on countries in transition to work towards a constitutional framework that ensures the balance of powers and fundamental freedoms, respects human rights and promotes a more equitable society and the well-being of citizens.
We invite us to go beyond the purely formal approaches 9l political transitions to make them real opportunities for rebuilding and consolidation of democratic gains by taking into account local specificities and requirements for the restoration of constitutional order through free, fair, equitable and transparent elections.
We uphold that economic development, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms are interdependent and mutually reinforcing.
We call for the Promotion of the socio-economic and cultural rights of citizens to strengthen the social dimension of democratic governance.
AS REGARDS TO STRENGTHENING OF STATES' RESILIENCE, INSTITUTIONS AND THE RULE OF LAW IN THE CONTEXT OF VIOLENT EXTREMISM AND TERRORISM
We urge for the building of solid state and institutional architectures in Africa capable of withstanding interior and external shocks.
We call for the reinforcement of the role of States through the strengthening of their presence in all localities of their territories, the confidence of the population in democratic institutions and the strengthening of the rule of law.
We also call for addressing fragility and vulnerability factors that undermine the resilience of states and institutions, including internal conflict, ethnic tensions, transnational organized crime, violent extremism and terrorism, conflicts between states, cybersecurity and climate insecurity.
We call for poverty reduction, economic inequality, internal disputes, armed conflict, corruption, injustice, poor governance, democratic deficit, weak institutions, the absence of the rule of law and exogenous shocks that are factors of fragility and instability that can hinder the management of political transitions towards the consolidation of democratic governance.
We reaffirm the need to include young people and women in the development and implementation of any policy affecting the socio-economic development of our societies, a guarantee of inclusiveness and social Peace.
We reiterate the African Union’s zero tolerance for unconstitutional changes of government, as explicitly stated in the Lome Declaration of July 2000; we emphasize that undemocratic means to power accentuate the fragility of the State, weakens national institutions and the rule of law, and undermines social cohesion.
We reaffirm the absolute necessity for states to address the structural causes and conditions that favor unconstitutional changes of government.
We emphasize that foreign interference and the geopolitical interests of the great powers are likely to aggravate the fragility of our countries and the threats to peace, stability, democratic consolidation and development.
We invite States in transition to use peaceful dispute resolution mechanisms and channels and to strengthen the empowerment and resilience of populations to reduce their vulnerability.
We call on countries in transition to implement reconciliation policies and strengthen national unity adapted to each context.
AS REGARDS TO SUPPORTING POLITICAL TRANSITIONS AT SUB-REGIONAL, REGIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL LEVELS
We call on the African Union and regional bodies, as well as partners, to support inclusive political transitions in affected African countries, in the form of robust response and commitment to deepen democracy and ensure collective security.
We emphasize that subregional, regional and international organizations must strengthen their mediation role and facilitate dialogue and mutual understanding between stakeholders as well as seek the necessary compromises to achieve peaceful and constructive transitions.
We call on sub-regional, regional and international organizations to avoid conflict and overlapping agendas in monitoring and supporting political transitions.
We request from sub-regional, regional and international organizations to further support national efforts to strengthen the role and presence of States in transition throughout their territories and to support them in the implementation of development policies and the fight against poverty, especially in the most disadvantaged areas.
We underline the need to define transition periods in a consensual and inclusive manner, taking into account the imperatives of strengthening institutions and addressing the root causes of the crisis.
We invite vigilance in supporting the political transitions to avoid transition periods becoming fertile grounds for the breakdown of peace, and the development of subversive, separatist and terrorist activities.
We also invite sub-regional, regional and international organizations to be creative and to establish a contextualized diagnosis of cases and situations of transition to go beyond the usual normative frameworks to propose reforms of the State and institutions that will respond to the aspirations of all.
We call lor constructive dialogue with countries in transition and provide them with efficient support by adapting solutions and support initiatives to the specific situation of each country.
We underline the need to consider the regional security context in supporting political transitions in the Sahel and West Africa.
We request sub-regional, regional and international organizations to update their monitoring and supporting actions of political transitions, strengthen situation monitoring systems and create intelligence, strategic and geostrategic thinking centers to support their decision-making processes.
It should be stressed, however, that the effectiveness of the intervention of sub-regional, regional and international organizations in political transitions depends on other factors, including the political will and readiness of transitional governments to cooperate with them.
AS REGARDS THE PROMOTION OF PEACE, DIALOGUE, MEDIATION, FACILITATION AND PREFERMENT OF AFRICAN SOLUTIONS TO AFRICAN PROBLEMS
We welcome the creation of the Lomé Peace and Security Forum, which aims to be a permanent platform for dialogue, mediation, facilitation, negotiation, peace and security in Africa.
We call for an immediate ceasefire in Sudan, an end to the activities of armed groups in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, dialogue among Libyans for the rapid organization of elections and support for the fight against terrorism in the Sahel, Somalia and northern Mozambique.
We urge armed groups in the north of the Republic of Mali, the Central African Republic and Chad to join or reintegrate into peace processes in the three countries.
We underscore the need for sub-regional, regional and international organizations to further strengthen their commitment to preventive diplomacy to prevent conflicts and crises, facilitate peace talks, and support the peaceful and diplomatic resolution of disputes on the continent.
We encourage African elites to develop solutions adapted to the specific nature of Africa, both in the economic, infrastructure, research, innovation, training and political fields, conflict prevention, management and resolution.
We remain convinced that the current renewed interest in Pan- Africanism in Africa and among African diasporas and the effectiveness of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will enable Africa to improve its representativeness in global governance and its share in global trade.
Impact and Relevance
Before the Lome Peace and Security Forum, not much audience had been granted to military governments that emerged from the chain of coups in the continent. Military governments have engaged in unilateral decisions concerning their security needs without recourse to the concerns of neighboring states. In the latter part of 2022, the president of Ghana raised concerns about the likelihood of Wagner forces in Burkina Faso. He had raised this in a meeting with Secretary Anthony Blinken during the US-African Summit. He believed that the junta in Ouagadougou had traveled to Moscow to seal a deal to that effect. While Burkina Faso denied the assertion of the leader of neighboring Ghana, one thing was obvious: Accra was not communicating with Ouagadougou.
Lome, therefore, provides the avenue where security concerns could be communicated between military and civilian governments of different states. It would also mitigate the dangerous suspicion between the two different types of governments. During the forum, the foreign ministers of Burkina Faso and Mali openly expressed the importance of such avenues.
Secondly, Lome could help reduce the threat of coups d'etat in the region. When the coup in Niger occurred in mid-2023, there was a consensus among regional security experts that despite the enabling domestic environment, the influence of the neighboring junta-governed states played a major role in events leading up to the coup. Before the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) could reverse the situation, the military governments of Burkina Faso and Mali threw their weight behind the new junta in Niamey. This significantly frustrated the bloc's efforts to halt the coup trend.
With this forum, some form of confidence-building could commence between civilian governments and the juntas. This has the potential to limit any influence the latter may have on the military of civilian-ruled states in West Africa. Currently, every West African state (except The Gambia and Cape Verde) is either ruled by the military or shares a boundary with a country ruled by the military. Honest discussions between states--like what happened in Lome--could prove beneficial to regional stability.
Furthermore, Lome has the potential to become a platform on which the deteriorating regional security situation in Africa could be discussed and tackled. With violent extremists spreading their tentacles and causing so many deaths and destruction of properties, any gulf between military governments and civilian ones only gives them an advantage in their incendiary activities. Frictions between military governments and other African states have meant that cooperation in the fight against terrorism has either collapsed or become ineffective. In Mali and Burkina Faso, extremists are currently gaining ground in many areas. In recent times, they have run over government forces in northern Mali. After the last coup in Mali, the country opted out of the G5 Sahel (a Sahelian military alliance against terrorism). This significantly affected the efficacy of the fight.
During the forum, the heightened insecurity was a major issue for the representatives of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. They had asked for support from neighboring states. They bemoaned the sanctions placed on their governments and called for solidarity in the fight against terrorism. Lome creates the atmosphere for such discussions.
Also, Lome could lay the groundwork for a facilitated transition to democratic governance. For the first time since taking power, the junta in Niger declared during the forum that it is willing to hand over power to a civilian government. It, however, gave three years for the transition. Mali and Burkina Faso had also promised to handover
With the junta openly discussing the possibility of power transfer, the forum offered the opportunity for stakeholders to engage with the juntas on the transition.
The Lome Peace and Security Forum has a medium to long-term potential to create a communication channel by which "incompatible" systems would find common ground to discuss pressing issues in the continent. With organizers promising to continue the forum in subsequent years, the vast participation of people and institutions of diverse backgrounds would help deepen the discussions towards finding workable solutions to Africa's problems.
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