This special issue of the African Security Review examines the landscape of conflict early warning in Africa. The introductory editorial essay aims to position the various articles of the special issue in some general theoretical and historical contexts, leaving the specific debates to the various authors. The guest editors look at definitions of early warning, consider the historical evolution of conflict early warning systems (EWS), and take a critical look at the debate around the link or gap between early warning and early action. In essence, the guest editors underscore the fact that the field of conflict early warning is not a fortune-telling business, an industry aimed at predicting socio-political events. The field and its different actors and mechanisms typically serve various purposes and rely on networks and open sources as well as cooperation. At times, some actions are indeed taken and potential conflicts prevented, but these actions do not come to the attention of outside observers precisely because nothing happened. They acknowledge, however, that the field can still learn from past experiences and improve on its delivery, both at the level of analysis as well as the ensuing action.
The authors themselves cover various aspects of early warning in Africa, including a study on the challenges of conflict prevention in the Horn of Africa within the context of international cooperation and the African Peace and Security Architecture, an analysis of IGAD’s early warning system and whether it could extend beyond the pastoral conflicts on which it is currently focused, a critical appraisal of ECCAS’ early warning and early response mechanism, and a look at the new CEWARN Strategy Plan and its potential implications for Sudan-South Sudan relations.
Issaka Souare and Paul-Simon Handy (Guest editors)