African leaders will gather this weekend for a summit on African security, the first-ever of its kind. Although designed to be a venue for a range of topics, the growing conflict between Sudan and South Sudan is expected to dominate talks.
A number of heads of state, members of parliament, military officials, and academics will be present for the Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa, held in Bahir Dar, along Lake Tana, Ethiopia.
Among those in attendance will be the President of Djibouti, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, and the President of Cote d'Ivoire.
The conference was originally envisioned as an opportunity for the presidents of Sudan and South Sudan to discuss an end to the intensifying hostilities in the border region of the two nations.
Yet such hopes were abandoned when Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir cancelled his plans to attend after South Sudanese troops captured the Sudanese oil-producing town of Heglig on Tuesday, Voice of America reports.
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit will be present at the forum.
The African Union and the United Nations Security Council have demanded South Sudanese troops withdraw from the town. However, South Sudan says its soldiers will withdraw only if U.N. peacekeepers are deployed there.
The latest reports on Friday said that the Sudanese government has begun a counter attack on the oilfields along the disputed border region in response South Sudanese incursions into Heglig.
This week's conflict is the worst since South Sudan achieved independence from Sudan only nine months ago, after decades of civil war.
Military experts think the conflict seems to be spreading into Sudan's Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states, areas which are already experiencing food shortages, according to VOA.
The forum will consist of two meetings on diversity and weak states, says its organizer Andreas Eshete, but a third meeting on Sudan could be arranged.
Whether there is such a meeting or not, there will be plenty of occasions to discuss Sudan because there will be enough participants from Sudan and South Sudan as well as neighboring countries, he said to reporters.
It's clear [that] ethnic diversity has figured prominently in African conflicts. There are signs now that there is growing differences and in some cases confrontations over religious diversity as in Egypt ... Nigeria of course, so that's another dimension. We're leaving it open about what kind of diversity people wish to talk about, Andreas continued.
The Tana High-Level Forum is modeled after a similar annual meeting held in Munich, where European leaders join to discuss security issues.
Andreas is a former president of Addis Ababa University and is currently the UNESCO Chair for Human Rights, Peace, and Democracy.