8 December 2012

Southern Africa: Region's Peace Tops SADC Agenda

Photo: Al Jazeera English
M23 troops Bunagana 3

THE security situation in the region topped the agenda of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Troika on Peace, Defence and Security meeting held in Dar es Salaam on Friday.

There was no immediate statement on what transpired at the meeting, chaired by President Jakaya Kikwete at the State House.

However, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr Bernard Membe, earlier said that among other things, SADC member states were expected to pledge their support for an international neutral force to fight negative forces in the DRC, including the M23 rebels.

The main SADC summit, which will focus on the crisis in the eastern DRC and mediation in Zimbabwe, is to take place in Dar es Salaam today. Tanzania has already pledged to provide one battalion of 800 troops to the peacekeeping mission. Zimbabwe is expected to be part of the agenda at the summit.

South African President Jacob Zuma is the chief SADC mediator on Zimbabwe. It is also expected that the Summit will hear a report from Tanzania on the SADC mediation on Madagascar and a report from South Africa on the mediation in Zimbabwe.

The report on Zimbabwe follows a visit to Harare last week by Mr Zuma's facilitation team, which was briefed on the constitution-making process and preparations for next year's elections. The summit, which starts today at 10am, is part of diplomatic efforts to stem the crisis in the DRC, which saw the strategic eastern city of Goma falling under the control of the M23 rebels, raising fears of a broader regional conflict.

The rebels have since pulled out, but regional leaders are anxious to find a lasting solution to the crisis. The meeting of the SADC troika on politics and defence is currently chaired by Tanzania, with South Africa and Angola. Tanzania is the current Chair of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, whilst the Republics of South Africa and Namibia complete the Troika of the Organ.

When President Kikwete took over the chair of Troika in August this year, he said high on agenda during his one-year tenure would be to deal with the ongoing war in the eastern DRC, the political stalemate in Madagascar and Zimbabwe elections.

The meeting, which started yesterday afternoon, went on until 6pm with various heads of state and representatives from SADC member countries in attendance. Some of the heads of state who arrived yesterday include Mr Zuma, his International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and Namibia's President Hifikepunye Pohamba. Others are SADC Secretary General Tomaz Salomão and former Mozambique President Joachim Chissano. DRC President Joseph Kabila was expected in Dar es Salaam last night.

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