31 July 2012

Southern Africa Ministers Discuss Madagascar, Congo

Photo: Guy Oliver/IRIN
With most aid suspended, Madagascar is progressively sliding into greater fragility.

DEFENCE and Security ministers from Southern Africa on Monday opened talks in Pretoria, set to be dominated by the crisis in Madagascar and violence in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Top diplomats, including the newly elected African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, and security officials from the 15-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) were meeting ahead of an annual regional summit of Heads of State due in Maputo on August 17 and 18.

"We will today consider the SADC mediation in Madagascar aimed at getting elections and a restoration of normality," said South African Foreign Affairs Minister Maite Nkoane-Mashabane.

The ministers will also discuss the situation in DRC, where renegade soldiers led by a general wanted for crimes against humanity are challenging the regular army.

"We will also look at security in the region and get an update of developments in the Democratic Republic of Congo," said Nkoane-Mashabane at the start of the talks.

A United Nations Group of Experts has accused Rwanda of supporting the mutineers, allegations Kigali has denied.

"SADC will never achieve regional development and true integration without regional stability and democratic governance," said the South African minister.

South Africa, the chief mediator in the three-year crisis on the island of Madagascar, last week got President Andry Rajoelina and the man he toppled Marc Ravalomanana together in their first direct talks.

The meeting in the Seychelles failed to yield a deal on the conditions for Ravalomanana's return from exile, one of the major hurdles to clear before elections in the Indian Ocean Island and an end to the crisis.

Meanwhile, as regional efforts towards eradication of negative forces intensify, Ministers of Defence from the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) are also scheduled to meet in Khartoum, in the Republic of Sudan from August 1- 2.

The meeting is a follow up on the grouping's Head of State meeting held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, earlier this month, which resolved that a neutral force be deployed along the DRC-Rwanda border to help disarm armed groups in the Congo.

In their previous meetings, the region have been reviewing the challenges to fighting negative forces and have found out that the lack of shared information and intelligence on the identity, size, whereabouts, operations, capability and the general nature and character of existing armed negative forces in the region was a big problem.

It has also established of a Joint Intelligence Fusion Centre charged with the responsibility of collecting and sharing actionable intelligence on the problem of armed negative forces in the region.

The launching of the Joint Fusion Centre took place in June 2012 in Goma, eastern DRC.

The upcoming ministerial meeting which will be preceded by that of experts will focus on sharing relevant information and exchange views on the challenges and opportunities for regional cooperation in the fight against armed negative Forces in the region, a statement said.

It will also review progress so far made in the ICGLR regional effort to fight armed negative groups, including discussing and agreeing on resource mobilisation strategy for the operations of the Joint Intelligence Fusion Centre.

This is in line with the decisions of the Kigali meeting of ICGLR Ministers of Defence of September 2011.

This ministerial meeting will also assess ongoing regional diplomatic and political initiatives to deal with armed negative forces within the scope of the regional approach.

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