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Conflict Early Warning in the Horn: CEWARN’s Journey

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IGAD was launched on 25 November 1996 in Djibouti as an expanded version of the former Intergovernmental Authority on Drought and Development (IGADD), founded in 1986 as a regional organisation focusing on problems of desertifcation and locust control. IGAD’s new organisational structure and mandate made it the logical vehicle for addressing the deeper malaise in the neglected rangeland areas overlapping virtually all of the Member States’ national borders. Pastoralist confict remains one of the Horn of Afica’s most entrenched and difcult to manage security problems. At the time of its establishment under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), CEWARN assumed the mandate of developing a robust confict early warning and response mechanism.
IGAD’s developmental makeover coincided with a period of pastoralist turbulence. The spread of automatic weapons, recession of state authority across the region’s vast rangelands, and related political factors transformed the tradition al pastoralist raiding and livestock rustling into a cross-border menace and economic brake. Confict early warning emerged globally in the 1990s as an instrument of preventive diplomacy; CEWARN was tasked with using early warning methods to enhance security and develop peace infastructure on the regional level. Prior to these changes pastoralist confict was treated as a low priority subject to the control of individual governments. During the 1990s, however, pastoralist violence emerged as a considerably more cogent threat to regional peace and economic development.
By the late 1990s the growing incidence of cross-border raiding combined with the spreading impact of civil strife and sub-national conficts to underscore the need for a more coordinated and sustained regional approach.
The original IGADD brought together Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, and Kenya—countries encompassing the eastern-most extension of Afica’s Sahel band. Eritrea joined the new IGAD following its independence in 1993, and the new nation of South Sudan became a member in 201 The seven IGAD member states cover an area of 5,233,604 km2 and host a population of some 230 million people who subsist on an average per capita GDP of $1,197 per year. IGAD’s Horn of Afica rangelands host the largest concentration of pastoralists in the world. Even the most generously endowed and meticulously planned project would encounter serious constraints limiting its efcacy and impact in these conditions. The challenges of operating in such an infastructural-poor environment, further compounded by the limited capacity of national governments (or objective absence in the case of Somalia), informed the design and methodology of the CEWARN initiative. When CEWARN was initially conceived, the complexity of cross-border conficts presented a shared concern for the region, but it also ofered a rare entry point for inter-governmental collaboration and regional cooperation.
It is important to recognise that the prospects for the region’s economic take-of are increasing apace with the surge in cross-border infastructural projects, discovery of signifcant energy and mineral resources across the region, and a corresponding rise in international investment. Enhancing regional peace, security, and governance based on rule of law is an essential prerequisite for the region’s economic transformation. These conditions provide the context and backdrop for the diverse perspectives and analyses featured in this CEWARN compendium. They also signif why CEWARN undertook the rangeland confict prevention and peace-building mission with longer-term goals in mind. The initial phase of the early warning system and rapid response fund was in efect a pilot project for testing the viability of the mechanism’s key components. These include the data-driven early warning algorithm, the network of CEWARN observers and partners on the ground, development of rapid response capabilities, and the region’s states’ ability to cooperate efectively.
CEWARN’s development has been subject to political vagaries like Eritrea’s self suspension in 2007, the state of governance of Somalia, the 2011 separation of South Sudan, and its slide into civil war in 201 CEWARN’s contribution to rangeland confict mitigation may appear minimal to many external observers. While it may not be readily apparent outside the areas and communities where the organisation works, progress has been steady in regard to CEWARN’s methodology and development of structures critical to its longitudinal goals.
At the end of the second strategic phase in 2012, the CEWARN unit was tasked with taking stock of 10 years of existence and expanding its operational scope. Understanding that ultimately the impact of peace building must be felt on the ground, CEWARN embarked on an expansive consultative exercise with communities in CEWARN’s initial three regions of operation.
CEWARN staf supported by experts and local guides engaged with over 5000 civilians, civil society actors, and local ofcials across the region. The fndings, validated by national and regional ofcials, were presented to the IGAD Committee of Permanent Secretaries who directed CEWARN to embark on a new strategy that would expand the thematic and geographic coverage of its work, strengthen its institutional capabilities, and extend its partnerships. This marked the end of the pilot phase of the project preceding full operationalisation of the mechanism and strategy.
The publication of this compendium is intended to document the initial phase of CEWARN’s development, while marking the project’s transition fom an exclusive focus on pastoralist confict to addressing the wider goals articulated in the new strategy plan.
The volume presents a series of diverse perspectives and insights into both the achievements and limitations defning CEWARN’s progress over the past ffeen years. Perhaps more importantly, the compendium’s chapters and narratives provide a positive alternative to the more common narrative of confict and poor governance.
CEWARN is an information-driven, knowledge-based project predicated on state coordination and community participation. Rollout has been an uneven but sustained process due to varying conditions across the IGAD region, Member States, and local polities—and this compendium documents its development fom a number of diferent viewpoints. CEWARN’s success up to this point is in part due to its resilience and ability to respond to feedback fom what is by defnition a complex system in transition. In the fnal chapter of this volume,
Ambassador Martin Kimani (former Director of CEWARN and now Head of the National Counter Terrorism Centre in Kenya) illuminates the qualities and process of regional transformation. Before proceeding further, however, an outline of the CEWARN model, structures, and operational practice is in order.


Early warning enables the early detection of developments that signal the potential for eruption of violent conficts. It is used to elicit early response measures by decision-makers to prevent violent conficts fom occurring. Where violent conficts occur, it is used to mitigate their spread and escalation. Early warning typically consists of standardised procedures for data collection, analysis, and the timely transmission of early warning information to decision-makers and institutions mandated to take response action.
CEWARN’s early warning model relies on feld observation data through the regular monitoring of socio-economic, political and security related developments and trends as well as monitoring the occurrence of violent incidents in its areas of operation. The data based on forty-seven diverse variables inform the mechanism’s predictive model. The mechanism utilises sophisticated custom-made sofware dubbed the CEWARN reporter that enables it to store and do preliminary analysis of vast volumes of feld data. A structured system of quality control maintains the reliability, credibility, timeliness, and quality of the feld data and information collected on daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly basis.


CEWARN structures are constituted at regional, national and sub-national level. They are predicated on strong collaboration between governments and civil society in all the IGAD member countries. At the sub-national level, CEWARN’s feld monitors and locally constituted peace committees work on sourcing real-time early warning information and deploying response initiatives at the sub-national level respectively. Field Monitors are knowledgeable individuals embedded within their communities while the local peace committees comprise representatives of provincial administration, government security structures, civil society organisations, traditional and religious leaders as well as women leaders.
At the national level, CEWARN works through national Confict Early Warning and Response Units (CEWERUs) as a lead hub in each Member State overseeing all confict early warning and response operations. National CEWERUs are composed of representatives of government institutions working on peace and security, including ministries of interior and foreign afairs, national parliaments, civil society organisations and women who are actively engaged in national peace-building eforts. CEWERUs are assisted by independent national research and academic institutions called National Research Institutes (NRIs) that guide data collection and analysis work in each Member State.
Analysts based in the NRIs are responsible for receiving information fom feld monitors, verifing the information as well as undertaking thorough analysis, and ofering recommendations on response options.
CEWERUs are responsible for implementing response measures and collaborating across borders to undertake joint interventions against cross-border threats. CEWARN’s senior technical and policy structures oversee its work while providing avenues for high-level regional co-operation.
The CEWARN Unit in Addis Ababa is the overall hub for coordination of data collection, confict analysis, information sharing, and communication of response options. The work is overseen by two technical and policy organs, the Technical Committee for Early Warning (TCEW) and the Committee of Permanent Secretaries (CPS), a body that convenes annually to review progress and provide direction on CEWARN’s operations. CEWARN is also part of the Afican Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) through its linkages with the Afican Union’s Continental Early Warning System and those of other Afican Regional Economic Communities (RECs).