10 January 2013

Southern Africa: Guebuza to Attend Summit of SADC Troika

Photo: Government Comunication and Information System
File Photo:President Jacob Zuma at the 32nd Southern Africa Development Community.

Maputo — Mozambican President Armando Guebuza, who is the current chairperson of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), arrives in Dar es Salaam on Thursday, to attend a summit of the SADC Troika on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, expected to concentrate on developments in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Madagascar and Zimbabwe.

Also attending the meeting are Presidents Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania (who currently chairs the troika), Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia (the deputy chairperson), and Jacob Zuma of South Africa (the outgoing chairperson).

Preceding the two day summit, the foreign ministers of the troika members held a preparatory meeting in Dar es Salaam on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning.

Addressing the opening session of this meeting, Tanzanian Foreign Minister Bernard Membe said the summit is urgent “due to the dynamic nature of the crises we face in Madagascar, the DRC and Zimbabwe”.

According to the programme for the summit, the man who seized power in Madagascar in 2009, Andry Rajoelina, will address the SADC leaders about the situation on the island on Friday morning.

Since the 2009 coup, Madagascar has been suspended from membership of both SADC and the African Union, pending the restoration of constitutional order.

The Madagascan authorities have announced that presidential elections will be held in May and parliamentary elections in July. The implementation of a road map agreed by all the main Madagascan political forces in September 2011 has been made difficult by the threats issued by the Rajoelina regime that the deposed president, Marc Ravalomanana, will be arrested if he returns to the country.

In order to break the impasse, Ravalomanana has announced that he will not be a candidate in the forthcoming elections. But SADC hopes to persuade both Rajoelina and Ravalomanana to stand down.

As for Zimbabwe, SADC’s concern is that free and credible elections should be held later this year. The elections are now in doubt because one of the pre-conditions for holding them, a new constitution, is still not in place.

Negotiators from the three main political parties (President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF and both factions of the Movement for Democratic Change, MDC) produced a draft constitution last year. To the anger of the MDC, ZANU-PF has tried to introduce last minute amendments to the draft, making it quite impossible to hold a referendum on the constitution in October, as had initially been planned.

Mugabe has recently threatened that elections will be held anyway, on the basis of the old constitution, a position unacceptable to the MDC.

SADC is also seriously concerned at the conflict in the eastern DRC, pitting the M23 rebel movement against the government of President Joseph Kabila. At its annual heads of state summit held in Maputo in August, SADC blamed Rwanda for the conflict, and demanded that Rwanda immediately ease its support for the M23. Guebuza, in his first mission as SADC chairperson, carried this message personally to Rwandan President Paul Kagame later in August.

International anger has obliged the United Nations to impose sanctions against the M23. These are having some effect, in that the M23 has declared a unilateral ceasefire, ahead of a second round of negotiations with the Congolese government in Kampala.

The M23’s Executive Secretary and chief negotiator, Francois Rucogoza, told reporters that his movement would continue with the peace talks, regardless of whether Kabila’s government also signed the ceasefire.

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