The Conflict Early Warning and Response Mechanism (CEWARN) was established by IGAD in January 2002 as part of the IGAD Protocol. It is a collaborative effort of IGAD’s seven member states – Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda.
CEWARN aims to mitigate and prevent violent conflicts within the Horn of Africa sub-region. Its mission is to establish itself as an effective and sustainable sub¬regional mechanism for conflict early warning and response, fostering cooperation to respond to potential and actual violent conflicts and contributing to the peaceful settlement of disputes.
IGAD’s intricate and often conflicting regional politics have precluded CEWARN from regional diplomatic engagement to tackle inter-state conflicts or significant civil wars among its membership. Instead it has focused on low-level, local cross-border and related conflicts and responses, including pastoral conflicts, cattle-rustling, small arms and light weapons proliferation and communal insecurity. CEWARN is mandated to receive and share information, to provide analysis and develop case scenarios, and to formulate options for response. It has established networks of governmental and non-governmental stakeholders, including national-level Conflict Early Warning and Response Units (CEWERUs), National Research Institutes and Field Monitors.
In addition to information-sharing and networking among these various stakeholders, there is also the CEWARN Rapid Response Fund which manages a regional basket endowment that supports national and cross-border peacebuilding projects in CEWARN’s areas of reporting. The regional basket has so far received funding from the governments of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Italy and the UK, as well as the German Agency for Technical Cooperation and the Swedish International Development Agency.
Through these mechanisms CEWARN carries out its conflict early warning and response function in three clusters or pilot cross-border areas:
1. the Karamoja Cluster: Ethiopia, Kenya, the Sudan and Uganda
2. the Somali Cluster: Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia
3. the Dikhil Cluster: Djibouti and Ethiopia
Most of CEWARN’s monitoring and responses occur at the local level and from within each various cluster area. Local field monitors collect information and feed it into a data-based monitoring system using CEWARN-reporter ¬software. This is based on 52 indicators, including structural as well as climatic and environmental data.
Such micro-level preventive action has provided an important platform for coordinated interventions nationally – and in some case cross-nationally. CEWARN has been able to provide valuable information and analysis based on local insight from IGAD member states and other actors active in the Horn of Africa sub-region, including NGOs and donor governments.
In April 2010 CEWARN helped to resolve cross-district conflict in Uganda, when 40 animals were raided from Rupa parish in Moroto District by a group of Jie raiders from Kotido District. The Moroto District Field Monitor used an HF radio to contact the Secretary of Moroto District Peace Committee, who then alerted the Ugandan People’s Defence Forces (UPDF). The UPDF was able to follow the raiders and recover all 40 animals, with no injury or death registered in the process.
Data provided on the 52 early warning indicators mentioned above include violent incidents, human deaths, and net livestock losses. However, there are a number of important issues that limit the relevance of CEWARN’s methodology, in particular the indicative data that CEWARN analysis is based on as the indicators do not keep pace with important emerging trends such as the industrialisation of pastoralist conflicts – particularly large-scale commercial and highly violent cattle-rustling.
Diplomatic sensitivities within IGAD have further precluded CEWARN from engaging in significant conflict issues in the Horn of Africa sub-region, such as political extremism and in particular the impact of violence related to terrorist- and counter-terrorist activities. Particularly prevalent in the cross-border areas of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, such violence involves both state and non-state actors, and threatens regional stability. CEWARN’s continuing aversion to tackling conflict at the higher end of the political scale nine years after it was established belie its stated ambitions to operate at a regional political level.
CEWARN can claim some successes in both conflict early warning and response across a range of low-level conflict issues in the Horn of Africa. But while these responses are both laudable and valuable, the entity remains largely reactive and has not engaged in structural prevention to address the root causes of pastoralist conflict. CEWARN’s absence from the regional political sphere remains a significant gap and a wasted opportunity for CEWARN to act as an institutional link between local cross-border peacebuilding and regional diplomacy.
Dr Ibrahim Farah is a Nairobi-based Somali academic whose areas of interest include political and conflict analysis – both academic and policy – on Somalia and the Horn of Africa.