SOUTHERN African leaders have concluded a regional strategic meeting in Tanzania with a call for “responsive political will” from Zimbabwe’s unity government partners and a vow not to “rest until peace is restored in eastern DRC.”
Heads of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) had gathered for a weekend extraordinary summit to deliberate on the unfolding DRC conflict and review mediation efforts in Zimbabwe and Madagascar.
SADC pledged to mobilise 4,000 troops for a neutral force that will be deployed in DRC where M23 rebels have over the past months mounted a vicious onslaught against the government of President Joseph Kabila.
Tanzania promised to contribute a battalion of soldiers while other SADC nations said they will "activate" a standby brigade of 3,000 soldiers by mid-December. It was not immediately clear if Zimbabwe will also be contributing towards the force.
“I want to inform SADC that we will not rest until peace is restored in eastern DRC,” said Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, chairman of the SADC Troika on Peace, Defence and Security.
South Africa weighed in with a logistical support pledge for the standby force.
President Jacob Zuma said: "The Summit has reaffirmed the commitment of our region to collectively pursue regional peace and stability, particularly with regard to the security situation in the eastern DRC."
And on the long-drawn Zimbabwean question, SADC urged Zanu PF and MDC politicians to expedite the constitution revision process and put the new draft charter to a national referendum ahead of elections that President Robert Mugabe insists should be held in March, even without any major reforms.
“We should continue to appeal for responsive political will [in Zimbabwe],” Kikwete said.
SADC commended Zuma – regional facilitator in Harare – for his ongoing mediation efforts and urged him to continue pushing for resolution of all outstanding issues in the Global Political Agreement, including political and electoral reforms.
The power-sharing government’s pursuit for a new democratic constitution has stalled, and the charter’s completion is in jeopardy as Zanu PF and MDC continue to haggle over its contents.
Although the two MDC formations have endorsed the draft – crafted by a parliamentary committee after gathering public opinion – Zanu PF has rejected it, objecting to various governance issues including devolution of power from central government to provinces.
The party argues that devolution is a divisive concept, adding that it might be exploited by separatists to push a cessationist agenda. Zanu PF has also protested the whittling down of presidential executive powers, among other issues.