Civil society experts examine China’s growing presence in the Horn of Africa27 January 2012
The implications of China’s growing presence in the Horn of Africa were the focus of discussion at a workshop co-hosted by Saferworld and the Africa Peace Forum in Nairobi on 11 and 12 January.
The event brought together around 25 experts from universities, think tanks and NGOs from China and the Horn of Africa, providing a forum for civil society researchers and practitioners from the Horn to share their perspectives with their Chinese counterparts.
The event discussed the implications for regional and local security, and the new and evolving challenges for Chinese actors. It also asked how China’s presence impacts on the factors that drive conflict in the Horn, and what the opportunities are for China’s engagement to contribute to long-lasting and people-centred peace and stability.
"This workshop was short and small in size, but provided an opportunity for genuine discussion on matters which often get lost in big conferences,” said Xiao Yuhua of the Institute of African Studies, Zhejiang Normal University.
The workshop ‘Tackling Insecurity in the Horn of Africa: the role of China and other international actors’, saw open and frank exchange on ways that international, and particularly Chinese, engagement might be better calibrated to realities on the ground, to make a more positive contribution to lessening insecurity, and ultimately to consolidating peace in the region.
Sessions were held on conflict issues and actors at a regional level, as well as on broader thematic issues, allowing for exchange on subjects such as the threat of conventional arms proliferation and the potential of peacekeeping operations. Discussions also focused on the cases of Somalia and South Sudan, where the participants made recommendations for specific policy responses by China.
Berouk Mesfin, Senior Researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, Addis Ababa, said: “The discussions on South Sudan were particularly useful [to understand] the perceptions of Chinese intellectuals towards the numerous problems in the Horn and the evolving role of China in the region.”