President Lazarus Chakwera has been elected by member States of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) as the one to take over Chairperson Slot in August 2021 after Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi who started his one year tenure on Monday taking over from President John Magufuli of Tanzania.
At the 40th ordinary summit held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic and hosted by Mozambique, the 16-member regional block settled for Malawi to host the 41st ordinary SADC summit for Heads of State in August 2021 where Chakwera will assume the chairperson role.
It will be the third time in 20 years for Malawi to host Sadc Heads of State and Government summit after 2001 and 2013. In 2001. Then president Bakili Muluzi assumed the Sadc chairmanship as did former president Joyce Banda in August 2013.
Chakwera, who attended the Sadc summit for the first time as Head of State following his victory in the June 23 2020 fresh presidential elections, said the development symbolises the level of confidence the regional bloc has in the new leadership of Malawi.
"Malawi is extremely honoured to be elected as incoming chairperson of Sadc from August 2021.
"We are greatly humbled to be given this responsibility and I wish to express our unwavering commitment t execute this responsibility with utmost diligence," Chakwera said.
In his statement, Chakwera said he will make use if the Sadc chairmanship toward the advancement of the region's integration agenda as the community moves towards the Sadc agenda 2050 and the post-2020 Sadc agenda which has already been adopted.
The summit reiterated SADC's position on the reconfiguration of the Force Intervention Brigade in the Democratic Republic of Congo, "as submitted to the UN Secretary-General, which, among others, emphasizes that the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) should not be tampered with".
The Force Intervention Brigade, comprising infantry battalions from each of three SADC countries, South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi, as well as other support elements, has been stationed in the eastern DRC for the past seven years.
It has a more "robust" mandate than the rest of the UN peacekeeping mission which it is part of, and is tasked with protecting local civilians and stabilising the area by aggressively "neutralising" the various armed rebel groups which terrorise the area.
After initial success in defeating the Rwanda-backed M23 rebels, the FIB has been relatively inactive and some nations in the UN Security Council have called for it to be scaled down. This is what SADC is opposing.
The communiqué also said the summit received a report on the DRC-Zambia border dispute (which has caused considerable tensions), "and commended the Governments of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Republic of Zambia for their commitment to resolve the border issue amicably".
SADC Executive Secretary Stergomena Lawrence Tax told the summit - in remarks thankfully released as a written statement - that although Covid-19 control measures in the region had been largely successful, "sadly, we are now witnessing a surge, especially in local transmissions and an increase in casualties in some of our member states".
And she said that a review by the secretariat had shown that while SADC economic integration had progressed, this was not enough.
SADC economies remained "undiversified, with a growing dependency on natural resources and export of unprocessed commodities characterized by a stagnant industrial sector.