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SADC mulls solutions to regional challenges

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Picture: Elmond Jiyane/GCIS – President Cyril Ramaphosa, second from left, joins other Southern African Development Community (SADC) Heads of State and Government at the 42nd Ordinary Summit held in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, this week. Delegates commended Ramaphosa for his leadership and efforts to address peace and security threats during the year, including the Covid-19 challenges, the writer says.

By Chad Williams

The SADC summit in Kinshasa this week has signalled the challenges faced by the region, from political instability to regional security threats, and the need to resolve some of the problems urgently.

It was attended by the heads of state and government and/or their representatives of Eswatini, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Kingdom of Lesotho, Angola and Madagascar.

Elias Mpedi Magosi, the SADC executive secretary, was also in attendance, while Dr Vera Songwe, the secretary-general of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, delivered pre-recorded remarks.

Internal elections

DRC President Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo was elected as SADC chairperson. Namibian President Hage Geingob was elected as chairperson of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation. The outgoing chairperson of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation, President Cyril Ramaphosa, gave his report to delegates, on developments. Delegates commended Ramaphosa for his leadership and efforts to address peace and security threats during the year, including the Covid-19 challenges.

Lesotho

Ramaphosa, who is also the SADC facilitator to the Kingdom of Lesotho, delivered a progress report on the implementation of SADC decisions in the kingdom. While noting the progress made, it urged the government to expedite the completion of the reforms, and continue the peace, transitional justice and reconciliation process to engender national unity, and bring about national healing and cohesion, the summit heard.

The SADC, on more than one occasion, has had to intervene militarily in member states. Troops have been sent to the DRC and, more recently, to Mozambique to deal with an extremist insurgency in the Cabo Delgado region. In 2014, political instability in Lesotho led to the military becoming involved. It surrounded the prime minister’s residence and police headquarters, and shut down radio stations. Prime Minister Tom Thabane fled to South Africa.

Katharine Bebington, who is a programme officer in the Research Department at Accord, said recently that the SADC intervention in Lesotho, while having prevented the situation from deteriorating, was unable to bring about lasting political stability. She said the intervention showed the bloc’s willingness and ability to deploy political and military interventions to prevent and manage conflict.

While the circumstances of the SADC intervention in Lesotho were not the same as the unrest in Eswatini, parallels and lessons could be drawn, Bebington said. At this week’s summit, the delegates approved the establishment of an oversight committee made up of the SADC Panel of Elders and the Mediation Reference Group to ensure continuity and oversight of the implementation of reforms in Lesotho.

Cabo Delgado, Mozambique

The summit received updates on the security situation in Cabo Delgado province, in the northern part of Mozambique, and approved the extension of the SADC Mission in Mozambique and its related processes.

The summit commended SAMIM Personnel Contributing Countries for their solidarity and sacrifice in supporting the mission, and expressed condolences to the governments and families of the nine personnel who died in the operations.

Eastern DRC

The summit expressed concern about the latest security developments in eastern DRC, and mandated the chairperson of the Ministerial Committee of the Organ, supported by the Organ Troika FIB Troop Contributing Countries, to engage the UN Secretary General on the margins of the UN General Assembly next month, to explore avenues to support efforts towards improving security.

Eswatini security update

The summit welcomed a report presented by the government of Eswatini on the security situation in the country. While condemning the violence, it mandated the chairperson of the Organ to convene an extra-ordinary Summit of the Organ Troika and Eswatini to find a lasting solution.

Ringisai Chikohomero, a researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, said the Eswatini crisis was descending into conflict, with the bombing of state institutions and attacks on security forces on the rise. Brutal repression of protests and apparent abductions of civil society members continued, said Chikohomero. “Regional efforts to contain the situation and get the parties to talk also seem to be waning. The much-anticipated dialogue promised during South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s visit to the country at the end of 2021 hasn’t happened.”

Maritime threats

The summit expressed concern about the continued maritime security threats affecting the region’s development aspirations, in particular, those emerging in the western part of the Indian Ocean. The summit urged member states to expedite the implementation of the SADC Maritime Integrated Strategy and its Action Plan.

Terrorism

The summit welcomed the establishment of the SADC Regional Counter-Terrorism Centre in the United Republic of Tanzania, as an institution that co-ordinates counter-terrorism activities in the region. It urged member states to strengthen co-operation and information sharing on terrorism, radicalism and violent extremism.

Elections in the region

Delegates applauded the successful general elections in Zambia in August last year, and the peaceful transition of power, and noted the readiness of the governments of Angola and Lesotho to hold their general and national assembly elections on August 24 and October 7, respectively.

Africa, US and China

The summit expressed its dissatisfaction that the Continent was being targeted for unilateral and punitive measures through the Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act recently adopted by the US House of Representatives. The new US law seeking to punish states that back certain Russian actions, could have implications for African countries. The summit reaffirmed its position of non-alignment to conflict outside Africa, and directed that the matter be included in the AU agenda.

Industrialisation strategy and the socio-economic situation

The summit received reports on the status of the implementation of the Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap; and the socio-economic situation in the region including regional economic performance; regional food and nutrition security; gender and development; status of health in the region; and disaster risk management.

The summit endorsed a theme of the 42nd SADC summit of heads of state and government, titled “Promoting Industrialisation through, Agro-Processing, Mineral Beneficiation, and Regional Value Chains for Inclusive and Resilient Economic Growth”. The theme takes into account the urgent need to enhance the roll-out of SADC industrialisation and market integration programmes as contained in the RISDP (2020-2030). The summit approved and signed the agreement amending the SADC Treaty on Transformation of the SADC Parliamentary Forum into a SADC Parliament; and the agreement amending the Protocol on Development of Tourism in SADC.

The SADC Council of Ministers met in Malawi in March, this year to review the implementation of programmes aimed to promote and deepen regional integration, co-operation and economic development. The summit adopted the memorandum of agreement among the SADC member states for the establishment of the Humanitarian and Emergency Operations Centre.

Human trafficking

The summit adopted and signed the Protocol against Trafficking in Persons, to provide a framework of co-operation between member states in combating trafficking in persons and associated transnational organised and cross-border crimes in the region. In 2020, the bloc announced that it was finalising a legal instrument that would help intensify efforts to respond to the rising trafficking in persons, which is among the world’s fastest growing organised crimes.

Delegates approved the appointment of Angele Makombo N’Tumba, a DRC citizen, as the new SADC deputy executive secretary for regional integration. The summit commended outgoing SADC deputy executive secretary, Dr Thembinkosi Mhlongo, from South Africa, for having served the secretariat.

* Chad Williams is multimedia journalist for IOL News.