On Monday, May 11, the Africa Center hosted a virtual roundtable with His Excellency Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu, executive secretary of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). Africa Center Director of Programs and Studies Ms. Bronwyn Bruton provided introductory remarks and moderated the discussion, which was attended by senior members of government, the diplomatic community, and East Africa watchers across the DC policy space.
In his remarks, Dr. Workneh laid out his organization’s 3+2+1 agenda of priorities: the three top priorities being the risks to health, food security, and regional peace and security attributable to the COVID-19 crisis. Speaking to the coronavirus response, the executive secretary emphasized the need to support vulnerable populations including refugees, internally displaced persons, pastoralists, the urban poor, and those transiting through high-volume trade corridors. The locust infestation and regional flooding are next on the agenda, with the first wave of the locust invasion representing the worst the region has suffered in twenty-five years, and with a second twenty times bigger swarm predicted to be on its way. These swarms are reported to consume food crops capable of feeding eighty-four million people, thereby worsening the food insecurity situation in the region. The final concern is the impact that these successive shocks will have on the broader challenge of regional migration.
Upon the conclusion of Dr. Workneh’s remarks, attendees engaged him on specific questions related to IGAD’s leading response to COVID-19, peace talks in South Sudan, and AMISOM’s drawdown in Somalia, as well as more general inquiries about IGAD’s collaboration with international partners.