42nd SADC Summit in Kinshasha – peace and stability key to regional integration
By Kizito Sikuka.
The prevailing peace and security situation in southern Africa will be high on the agenda for leaders from southern Africa when they meet in the Democratic Republic of Congo this month to discuss ways of advancing regional integration.
This is because peace and stability are key conduits for sustainable development.
Furthermore, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which has generally enjoyed relative peace and stability is experiencing some pockets of volatility in some member states, hence the need to collectively address the situation.
This article, which is part of a series, highlights the major political issues that are likely to dominate the 42nd SADC Summit set for 17 and 18 August in Kinshasha under the theme “Promoting industrialization through agro-processing, mineral beneficiation, and regional value chains for inclusive and resilient economic growth.”
Towards stability in northern Mozambique:
The summit is expected to take stock of its regional intervention to address instability in northern Mozambique.
Northern Mozambique, particularly the Cabo Delgado Province has experienced increased acts of extremism, terrorism and insurgency, prompting a response from SADC due to potential threats to peace in the region.
According to the United Nations (UN), more than 3,000 people have been killed while 800,000 have been displaced since the beginning of the insurgency in 2017.
To help address the instability, the region deployed the SADC Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) in July 2021 following a decision by a SADC Summit held in June 2021 in Maputo.
Working together with the Mozambican force, notable progress has been made by the SAMIM to address the situation.
In this regard, the 42nd SADC Summit is expected to reaffirm its commitment to continue providing logistical and military support to Mozambique until stability is fully attained in the northern part of the country.
Addressing the situation in eastern DRC:
Another area of discussion for the leaders is the situation in eastern DRC where a rebel group known as M23 has resumed its terrorist attacks.
The M23 group had in December 2013 signed a peace agreement with the government to end its revolt but has since reneged on the pact.
The DRC has accused Rwanda of sponsoring the M23, and the 42nd Summit is therefore expected to come up with ways of resolving the situation, including engaging Rwanda with the aim of urging the country to stop any military support to the M23 rebels.
The leaders are also expected to reiterate their continued engagement in the DRC through the involvement of the SADC Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) in the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO).
The FIB is a regional peacekeeping force, comprising of troops from various SADC countries, while the MONUSCO is a mission made up of UN members.
Terrorism is very cancerous in nature, and once it finds fertile ground, it can quickly spread out to other parts of the region.
It is for this reason that SADC has taken an active role to thwart terrorism in the region. For example, a regional centre was launched in February 2022 to counter potential acts of terrorism in southern Africa.
Based in Dar es Salam, the United Republic of Tanzania, the SADC Regional Counter Terrorism Centre (RCTC) will advise SADC on counter-terrorism and prevention of violent extremism policies, programmes and deployments within the region; coordinate the implementation of the SADC Regional Counter-Terrorism Strategy, and lead the review process of the strategies.
Researching, assessing, analysing and timely dissemination of information to agencies tasked with national counter-terrorism and prevention of violent extremism agencies is also a key responsibility for the centre.
The 42nd SADC Summit is expected to deliberate on how the region should remain alert to threats of terrorism in the region since such acts know no boundaries.
The RCTC was established in line with the outcome of the 35th SADC Summit held in August 2015 in Gaborone, Botswana that adopted the Regional Counter-Terrorism Strategy and its Plan of Action as a comprehensive, integrated and operational framework geared towards preventing and countering terrorism, as well as enhancing cooperation and coordination.
Conflict whether national, regional or global are caused by various factors and these differ from one country to another and region to region.
Some of the factors could be political, socio-economic and environmental.
For example, environmental factors such as droughts and floods caused by climate change have escalated competition for scarce resources in some parts of the region, sparking serious conflicts in communities.
On the other hand, simmering political tensions usually in the run-up to national elections in some Member States is a cause for concern in SADC.
Therefore, it is critical to develop appropriate structures and mechanisms to prevent conflict at its early stages, and the 42nd Summit is set to discuss how the SADC Panel of Elders (PoE) and Mediation Reference Group (MRG) have carried out their duties since they were appointed in February.
The PoE and MRM are tasked to assist in maintaining political and security stability in the region through the prevention and resolution of significant inter-state and intra-state conflicts.
This follows the approval to operationalize the panel by the 41st SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government that was held in Lilongwe, Malawi in August 2021.
Democratic elections key to sustainable development:
The other main issue for discussion at the 42nd SADC Summit is the holding of democratic elections in the region.
At least two SADC Member States — Angola and the Kingdom of Lesotho – are this year expected to go to the polls.
Next year five SADC Member States – DRC, Madagascar, Mozambique, the Kingdom of Eswatini and Zimbabwe – are due to hold their elections.
The leaders are thus expected to encourage these countries to adhere to and conduct their elections in accordance with the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.
The SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections provide a normative peer review framework to measure adherence to standardized universal best practices in relation to the conduct of elections and, ultimately, the prevention of election-related conflicts.
To promote the holding and observation of democratic elections, the region will deploy the SADC Election Observation Mission (SEOM) in the countries holding elections.
The SEOM, which will be guided by the provisions and requirements of the Constitutions of the countries holding elections will observe the elections in three phases: the pre-election period, election-day and post-election.
After the elections, the SEOM is expected to issue a comprehensive report on the conduct of the polls in accordance with the provisions of the revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.
Southern African News Features are produced by the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC) based in Harare. www.sardc.net