SADC appoints a panel of elders to tackle conflict
By Clarkson Mambo.
“Those who do not listen to the voice of the elderly are like trees without roots.”
This is just but one, in the long list of African proverbs that recognizes the critical role that elders play in every aspect of the growth and development of society.
One such role that elders play in society is in conflict prevention and mediation through providing wisdom and guidance from past experiences.
In line with this long-standing tradition, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has appointed an eight-member Panel of Elders (PoE) and Mediation Reference Group (MRG) to assist in promoting political and security stability in the region through the prevention and resolution of significant inter-state and intra-state conflicts.
The members of the SADC PoE and MRG are from the SADC Member States and are expected to provide their services for a period of four years.
This follows the approval to operationalise the panel by the 41st SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government that was held in Lilongwe, Malawi in August 2021.
On 28 February, the outgoing SADC Chairperson of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, President Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana presented the members with their appointment letters soon after their induction meeting that was organised by the SADC Secretariat in Gaborone.
President Masisi urged the region including key policy and decision-making structures to make use of the expertise of the SADC PoE and MRG to advance integration and stability in the region.
The SADC PoE and MRG comprise eminent personalities that include former Heads of State and Government and former Government Ministers, as well as diplomats from SADC countries.
Their appointment was made based on their reputation and demonstrable experience in political and technical skills in conflict resolution, preventative diplomacy and mediation.
Former President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Dr Jakaya Kikwete, is the chairperson of the SADC PoE.
Kikwete, who took over the fourth Tanzanian Presidency from Benjamin Mkapa in 2005 before handing over power to John Magufuli in 2015 is a strong believer of SADC’s capacity to address its own challenges without unnecessary outside interference.
One of his greatest achievements as part of the SADC leadership in 2012 was that he was instrumental in the finalization and launch of the Revised Strategic Indicative Plan of the Organ (SIPO).
The SIPO which is now combined with the new Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2020-2030, is a regional blueprint that establishes SADC`s institutional framework for policy coordination and implementation in politics, defence and security cooperation, and seeks to create a peaceful and stable regional political and security environment.
Kikwete also played a critical role in the implementation of the SADC roadmap for Madagascar, as well as searching for a lasting solution to the crisis in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and oversaw the successful conclusion of the political dialogue in Zimbabwe that established an inclusive government in the country.
Former Vice President of Mauritius, Paramasivum Pillay Vyapoory is deputy for the SADC PoE.
The other members are Patrick Chinamasa – Zimbabwe’s former Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, who also once served as Finance and Economic Planning Minister, and Attorney General – and Charles Tibone, former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry responsible for Foreign Affairs in Botswana.
With regards to the SADC MRG, long-time Zambian diplomat, Lucy Mangomba is chairperson deputised by mediation and negotiation expert, Hellen Lwegasira from Tanzania.
Other members are veteran diplomats, Molosiwa Selepeng from Botswana and Dr Andrew Hama Mtetwa from Zimbabwe.
The SADC PoE and MRG are part of the SADC Mediation and Conflict Prevention and Preventative Diplomacy structure that was established by the regions leaders in August 2004.
Peace and security are key to sustainable development, and SADC places priority on consolidating and promoting stability in the region.
The SADC PoE and MRG are expected to report to the Organ on Politics Defence and Security, which was created in 1996 to steer and provide Member states with the direction regarding matters that threaten peace, security and stability in the region.
Managed on a Troika basis, the Organ is coordinated at the level of Summit, consisting of a Chairperson, Incoming Chairperson and Outgoing Chairperson, and reports to the SADC Summit Chairperson.
The current chairperson is President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, the incoming chairperson is President Hage Geingob of Namibia, and President Masisi of Botswana is the outgoing chairperson. sardc.net