A Southern African Development Community heads of state summit has ended in Malawi's capital, Lilongwe, with a call for finding ways to end the volatile political situation facing people in the region and Africa as a whole.
In her remarks at the close of the two-day gathering, the new chairperson of the regional bloc, President Joyce Banda of Malawi, called for an immediate solution to political turmoil affecting the lives of people in a number of African countries.
She cited people living in Madagascar, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe as examples.
However, President Banda said SADC heads of state are impressed with recent developments in Zimbabwe that promise a peaceful political environment there. "The summit has noted the progress made in Zimbabwe under a global political agreement signed in 2008, and commended the successful referendum on the new constitution in March 2013, as well as the conduct of harmonized elections of 31 July 2013," she said.
She urged Western countries to review their policies on Zimbabwe. "SADC calls upon the international community to review their position in sanctions following the progress being made in Zimbabwe. I believe totally that Zimbabweans deserve better and Zimbabweans have suffered enough," she said.
Banda said when a country is put on sanctions it is the people living in the villages under poor conditions who suffer most.
The SADC leaders also condemned acts of violence from the various warring sides in Egypt and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
"We remain concerned about the deteriorating security and humanitarian condition in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. We reiterate our call for reengagement of our political stakeholders to find a lasting solution for peace, security and stability in the region. We also appeal to stakeholders to engaging all the negative forces so that a lasting solution in the great lakes region is formed," she said.
She said the SADC is pleased that peace is slowing showing signs of returning in Madagascar. "This is good news for SADC region. It vindicates that the long and painful efforts of SADC, through its mediator, former president of Mozambique Joachim Chissano are paying dividends," she said.
Some critics accuse the SADC heads of state of viewing these summits as merrymaking events.
Dumezweni Dlamini is the coordinator for the People's Dialogue, a network of civil society organizations.
"Heads of state summits have been looked at as one of those Christmases for the heads of state where they say 'let us come and dine and wine' and not to attack each other. We have never heard any of these heads of state asking each other 'why are you conducting yourself in this manner while as a region we uphold the principles of democracy," he said.
He said SADC leaders are failing to put the welfare of poor people at the center of their discussions.
"When you talk about the GDP per capita of these countries like where I come from in Swaziland, it says most of the people there are living above a dollar day. But what happens to those people, who are living far below? They are not considered when it comes to that equation. Which means that the GDP per capita in this region does not reflect what is on the ground," he said.
But Malawi's President Banda of Malawi said that, as new SADC chair, she will strive to take the issues of poor people to heart during her tenure.