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African heads of state missed critical SADC summit for King Charles III’s coronation

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By Lenin Ndebele for News24.com

  • The presidents of Botswana, Zimbabwe, Eswatini, Malawi, Lesotho, Zambia, Mozambique and Angola missed a critical SADC summit.
  • They were in the United Kingdom after attending the coronation of King Charles III.
  • The aim of the summit was to consider report findings on the DRC conflict and review SADC armed force operations in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado.

Several Southern African Development Community (SADC) heads of state missed the Extraordinary Organ Troika Summit in Windhoek, Namibia, because they were in the United Kingdom after they attended the coronation of King Charles III on Saturday.

Incoming SADC chairperson, Angolan President João Lourenço, was represented by his Minister of External Relations, Tete António, and outgoing chairperson, Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera, sent Minister of Defence Harry Mkandawire in his place.

Mkandawire was chosen ahead of vice-president Saulos Chilima, whose duties were suspended by Chakwera last year due to a graft probe involving alleged kickbacks from British-Malawian businessman, Zuneth Abdul Rashid Sattar.

Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema asked ambassador to Namibia Stephen Katuka to represent him.

Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Eswatini, Lesotho and Madagascar were represented by officials from their embassies.

READ | King Mswati III dodges urgent SADC summit on politics and security

The host, Namibian President Hage Geingob; South African president Cyril Ramaphosa, who didn’t attend the coronation; Tanzanian president Samia Suluhu Hassan; and Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi attended the summit.

Order of the day 

In his opening remarks, SADC executive secretary Elias Magosi said the summit was one of the most important gatherings on the SADC calendar this year.

He said:

It’s one of the most crucial structures of SADC, mandated to promote peace, and security in the region in recognition of the fundamental importance of peace and security to our drive towards regional integration, cooperation, integration and socio-economic development.

 

Despite Islamic extremist-linked insurgency in the oil gas-rich Cabo Delgado province in Mozambique, and conflict in the eastern part of the DRC, the SADC region remains the most peaceful region in Africa.

Hence, to improve on this, Magosi said SADC instruments employed to tackle crisis hotspots should remain activated.

While the crisis in the DRC is mostly dealt with under the East African Community (EAC), with the likes of Burundi, Kenya and Angola leading various platforms, SADC has the Force Intervention Brigade deployed under the UN peacekeeping mission.

Ramaphosa was in Burundi last week where he attended the regional oversight mechanism (ROM) for the peace, security and co-operation (PSC) framework for the Democratic of the Congo (DRC) and the Great Lakes region.

Ramaphosa is the outgoing chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation.

The summit noted that the humanitarian situation was getting worse in the DRC due to M23 rebels as well as more than 100 armed militia groups known as the Mai-Mai.

“The summit reaffirmed its support to restore peace in the eastern part of DRC ahead of elections due in December. In March, SADC sent an assessment team to the DRC to study the conflict scenario and by the end of the summit, a report will be tabled for consideration by member states,” said Magosi.

Regional integration

In 2011, the heads of state and government of the Common Market for eastern and southern Africa (Comesa), the EAC and SADC launched negotiations for the establishment of the Comesa-EAC-SADC Free Trade Area (FTA) tripartite cooperation.

The treaty will cover 26 countries with a combined population of more than 600 million people.

Speaking at the opening of the SADC summit, Geingob said they would look into making it a four-member cooperation bloc, including economies of central Africa.

“The tripartite summit is proposed to become a quadripartite summit to accommodate the economic community of central African states,” he said.

The summit was preceded by a ministerial meeting on 7 May 2023.