Luanda - SADC Heads of State tackled regional security issues in their one-day summit meeting on Tuesday in Luanda.
Bringing about stability in Lesotho, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Madagascar topped the agenda, but the consensus was that despite some security challenges the region remains stable.
Progress in Lesotho in terms of constitutional and security sector reforms were reviewed, with President Cyril Ramaphosa stating in his opening remarks: “We urge the government, opposition parties and people of the Kingdom to start the reform process in earnest…constitutional reforms remain a cornerstone towards political stability that will constitute the edifice of all other sectoral reforms including security.”
SADC’s resolve to bring about stability in the mountain kingdom has been demonstrated through the work of the SADC facilitator, deployment of the oversight committee, and the deployment of a SADC Preventive Mission.
The progress in terms of implementing the reforms recommended by the SADC Commission has in part been due to the pushback from opposition parties to the reform agenda. There remains a question around the ability of members of parliament to cross the floor, which continues to cause problems, particularly in the case of a coalition government.
On the DRC, Ramaphosa said: “We note the progress made in the implementation of the December 2016 Political Agreement as demonstrated by the National Independent Electoral Commission publicising the electoral calendar, voter registration and the general preparations for the December elections.”
The elections in the DRC have been scheduled for December 23, and it is expected that the UN, SADC and AU will send election observer missions. According to Congolese government officials, 47 million citizens have been registered to vote, and the government claims to have the necessary budget to hold the elections.
While insecurity persists in some parts of the country such as the Kivus, SADC is throwing its support behind the electoral process.
SADC has decided to appoint former Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba as the Special Envoy to the DRC ahead of the elections.
SADC expressed grave concern with the unfolding situation in Madagascar, where mass demonstrations against the government have taken place in recent days.
“There is an urgent need for our organisation to make a timely intervention given the current situation,” Ramaphosa said.
“We should not allow the country to slide back to political instability particularly now that it is preparing for elections."
Madagascar’s President has said that the current unrest is intended to divide the country, while the opposition claims that new electoral laws are designed to prevent former President Marc Ravalomanana from running for power.
SADC agreed on the urgent deployment of Special Envoy to Madagascar to facilitate a national dialogue to de-escalate political tensions. Former President of Mozambique Joaqim Chissano has undertaken the responsibility.
* Shannon Ebrahim is the Group Foreign Editor