Conflict Early Warning in the Horn: CEWARN Journey – Somalia



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 organization focusing on issues of desertification and locust control. IGAD’s new organizational structure and mandate have made it the logical vehicle to address the deeper malaise in neglected rangelands that straddle virtually all national borders of Member States. Pastoral conflict remains one of the most entrenched and difficult to manage security challenges in the Horn of Africa. At the time of its establishment under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), CEWARN assumed the mandate to develop a robust conflict early warning and response mechanism.
The overhaul of IGAD’s development coincided with a period of pastoral turbulence. The spread of automatic weapons, the regression of state authority in the region’s vast rangelands, and related political factors have turned traditional pastoralist looting and cattle theft into a cross-border threat and economic drag. . Early warning of conflicts appeared throughout the world in the 1990s as an instrument of preventive diplomacy; CEWARN has been tasked with using early warning methods to enhance security and develop regional peace infrastructure. Prior to these changes, pastoral conflicts were treated as a low priority under the control of individual governments. During the 1990s, however, pastoral violence emerged as a much more compelling threat to regional peace and economic development.
In the late 1990s, the growing incidence of cross-border raids combined with the growing impact of civil unrest and subnational conflict underscored 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 easternmost extension of Africa’s Sahelian belt. Eritrea joined the new IGAD after its independence in 1993, and the new nation of South Sudan became a member in 201 The seven member states of IGAD cover an area of ​​5,233,604 km2 and are home to a population of approximately 230 million people living on average per capita GDP of $1,197 per year. IGAD’s Horn of Africa rangelands are home to the largest concentration of pastoralists in the world. Even the most generously endowed and meticulously planned project would encounter serious constraints limiting its effectiveness and impact under these conditions. The challenges of operating in such an infrastructure-poor environment, further compounded by the limited capacity of national governments (or lack thereof in the case of Somalia), informed the design and methodology of the CEWARN initiative. When CEWARN was initially conceived, the complexity of cross-border conflicts presented a shared concern for the region, but also offered a rare entry point for intergovernmental collaboration and regional cooperation.
It is important to recognize that the region’s prospects for economic take-off are increasing rapidly with the rise of cross-border infrastructure projects, the discovery of significant energy and mineral resources in the region, and a corresponding increase in international investment. Strengthening regional peace, security and governance based on the rule of law is an essential prerequisite for the economic transformation of the region. These conditions provide the context and backdrop for the various perspectives and analyzes presented in this CEWARN compendium. They also signify why CEWARN undertook the mission of conflict prevention and peacebuilding with longer term goals. The initial phase of the early warning system and rapid response fund was in fact a pilot project to test the viability of key elements of the mechanism. These include the data-driven early warning algorithm, the network of CEWARN observers and partners on the ground, the development of rapid response capabilities and the ability of states in the region to cooperate effectively. .
The development of CEWARN has been subject to political vagaries such as the self-suspension of Eritrea in 2007, the state of governance in Somalia, the separation from South Sudan in 2011 and its slide into civil war in 201. CEWARN’s contribution to mitigating rangeland conflict may appear minimal to many outside observers. . Although this may not be evident outside of the areas and communities where the organization works, progress has been steady in CEWARN’s methodology and the development of structures essential 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 peacebuilding must be felt on the ground, CEWARN embarked on an extensive consultation exercise with communities in CEWARN’s first three regions of operation. .
CEWARN staff supported by local experts and guides engaged with over 5,000 civilians, civil society actors and local leaders across the region. The findings, validated by national and regional officials, were presented to the Committee of Permanent Secretaries of IGAD who requested CEWARN to embark on a new strategy that would broaden the thematic and geographical coverage of its work, strengthen its institutional capacities and expand its partnerships. This marked the end of the pilot phase of the project preceding the full operationalization of the mechanism and the strategy.
The publication of this compendium is intended to document the initial phase of CEWARN’s development, while marking the project’s transition from an exclusive focus on pastoral conflict to achieving the broader goals articulated in the new strategic plan.
The volume presents a series of diverse perspectives and insights into the achievements and limitations defining CEWARN’s progress over the past five years. Perhaps most importantly, the compendium’s chapters and stories offer a positive alternative to the more common narrative of conflict and poor governance.
CEWARN is an information-driven, knowledge-based project based on state coordination and community participation. Deployment has been an uneven but sustained process due to varying conditions in the IGAD region, Member States and local politics – and this compendium documents its development from a number of different perspectives. CEWARN’s success so far is partly due to its resilience and ability to respond to feedback from what is by defnition a complex system in transition. In the last chapter of this volume,
Ambassador Martin Kimani (former Director of CEWARN and now Head of the National Counter Terrorism Center in Kenya) highlights the qualities and process of regional transformation. Before going any further, however, an overview of CEWARN’s model, structures and operational practice is in order.


Early warning enables the early detection of developments that signal the potential for the eruption of violent conflict. It is used to prompt early response measures by decision-makers to prevent violent conflict from occurring. When violent conflicts occur, it is used to mitigate their spread and escalation. Early warning generally consists of standardized procedures for data collection, analysis and timely transmission of early warning information to decision makers and institutions mandated to take response action.
CEWARN’s early warning model relies on field observation data through the regular monitoring of socio-economic, political and security developments and trends as well as tracking the occurrence of violent incidents in its areas. of operation. Data based on forty-seven diverse variables inform the predictive model of the mechanism. The mechanism uses sophisticated bespoke software called the CEWARN Reporter which allows it to store and perform preliminary analysis of vast volumes of field data. A structured quality control system maintains the reliability, credibility, timeliness and quality of field data and information collected on a daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly basis.


CEWARN structures are formed at regional, national and sub-national levels. They are based on close collaboration between governments and civil society in all IGAD member countries. At the sub-national level, CEWARN field monitors and locally constituted peace committees work to seek real-time early warning information and the deployment of response initiatives at the sub-national level, respectively. Field monitors are knowledgeable people embedded in their communities while local peace committees include representatives from the provincial administration, government security structures, civil society organizations, traditional and religious leaders as well as women leaders.
At the national level, CEWARN works through the National Conflict Early Warning and Response Units (CEWERUs) as the main center in each Member State overseeing all conflict early warning and response operations. National CEWERUs are made up of representatives from government institutions working on peace and security, including ministries of interior and foreign affairs, national parliaments, civil society organizations and women who are actively engaged in the national peacebuilding efforts. The CEWERUs are supported by independent national research and academic institutes called National Research Institutes (NRIs) which guide the data collection and analysis work in each Member State.
NRI-based analysts are responsible for receiving information from field monitors, verifying information as well as undertaking in-depth analysis and offering recommendations on response options.
The CEWERUs are responsible for implementing response measures and cross-border collaboration to undertake joint interventions against cross-border threats. CEWARN’s high-level technical and political structures oversee its work while providing opportunities for high-level regional cooperation.
The CEWARN unit in Addis Ababa is the global hub for coordinating data collection, conflict analysis, information sharing and communication of response options. The work is overseen by two technical and policy bodies, the Technical Committee for Early Warning (TCEW) and the Committee of Permanent Secretaries (CPS), a body which meets annually to review progress and provide operational guidance. from CEWARN. CEWARN is also part of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) through its links with the Continental Early Warning System of the African Union and those of other African Regional Economic Communities (RECs).

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