|SADC Summit describes 2002 as historic year for southern Africa
The 22nd SADC Summit held in Angola at the beginning of October cited the consolidation of peace in the region and a crusade against hunger as some of the challenges that the 14-member group need to urgently tackle in order to sustain its long term goal of regional integration.
The leaders described 2002 as a “historic year for the region as epitomised by the peace and stability in Angola, the withdrawal of troops from DRC, the launch of the African Union and the hosting of the World Summit on Sustainable Development”.
An atmosphere of peace and stability is rapidly taking root in Angola following the signing of an agreement between government and the military wing of UNITA on 4 April 2002. In a briefing to the Summit, the Angolan government said the guns had completely fallen silent in the entire country since the signing of the agreement.
The government has demobilised former UNITA soldiers and is intensifying efforts at reintegrating them into the society. It said about 5,000 soldiers had already been integrated into the national army and police, and more are being trained for civilian jobs.
The Summit also noted with satisfaction latest developments in the resolution of conflict in the DRC, which has so far claimed three million lives. Peace is fast returning to the vast African country following the signing of agreements between government and some of the rebel movements and their backers, Rwanda and Uganda. Foreign troops are in the process of withdrawing and it is hoped that the UN is going to intensify its presence if current initiatives are to be sustained.
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe briefed the Summit on the political developments in the country, especially the land reform programme which received full support from fellow leaders.
Addressing journalists at the close of Summit, the incoming SADC Chairperson President Dos Santos said, “The position of the region [on Zimbabwe] remains the same – it is an expression of consensus… of solidarity and support…” He added that: “Those who want to reverse the land reform in Zimbabwe would be behind history.”
Tanzania President Benjamin Mkapa, who was elected deputy chairperson of SADC and will host the Summit next year, said Zimbabwe’s land question needs to be put in its proper historical context.
“Such reforms [as in Zimbabwe] … respond to the justified need to correct injustices of the past,” said President Mkapa.
He spoke of unity, saying “… SADC is rooted in struggle, from which we have much to learn, and draw the necessary inspiration to wage the new struggles facing our region in the 21st Century. … Without unity the armed liberation struggle would have buckled in the face of the superior weaponry of our erstwhile enemies.
“And today, as we wage the struggle to carve for ourselves a place at the table of a global economy, we must remain united. There is no alternative to unity.”
President Mkapa said one way of achieving unity was to ratify and begin to implement the various SADC protocols. Prior to the Summit, 21 protocols had been successfully negotiated and concluded, with 10 having come into force. Four more protocols were signed in Luanda, namely: Extradition; Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters; Forestry and the Agreement Amending the Protocol on the Tribunal.
The Summit witnessed a ceremonial handover of the SADC Chair from Malawi President Bakili Muluzi to President Dos Santos. Mozambique’s President Joaquim Chissano was unanimously re-elected Chairperson of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation for a further one-year term. Lesotho’s Prime Minister Palitha Mosisili was elected Deputy Chairperson.
President Dos Santos was appointed as the fourth member to represent SADC on the Heads of State Implementation Committee of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). The other heads of state are Botswana’s Festus Mogae, President Chissano and South African President Thabo Mbeki.
Regarding the economic situation, the leaders noted that while a positive gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate had been achieved since the mid 1990s, the region still faces major challenges such as poverty, low rates of growth, low levels of industrialisation, inadequate macro-economic policy coordination, HIV/AIDS and food insecurity.
In this respect, the Summit “directed the ministers responsible for economic developmenct and finance to meet urgently to work on a short term plan to revitalise the regional economy…”
In its final communiqué, the Summit expressed deep concern over the food crisis gripping some of countries in the region. The leaders stepped up their appeal for international assistance. In July, SADC launched a joint appeal with the UN for US$611 million in aid to avert a humanitarian catastrophe as well as fund agricultural development.
The leaders welcomed the formation of an advisory committee on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), which will develop guidelines to assist member states guard against potential risks in food safety, contamination of genetic resources, ethical issues, trade related issues and consumer concerns.
With regards to gender equality, the “summit received a report on the progress made by SADC member states towards reaching the target of 30 percent of women in politics and decision-making structures by the year 2005, which was set out in the 1997 SADC Declaration on Gender and Development,” reads part of the final communiqué.
The report indicated that in general women remain largely under represented in decision-making positions and member states were encouraged to do more work in order to achieve the minimum target.
The summit was attended by all countries, with 11 of them represented at the highest level, while Lesotho and Mauritius were represented by their deputy prime ministers and Seychelles by its high commissioner to South Africa. The heads of the African Development Bank and the African Union were also in attendance, as were senior officials of the Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa, and the UN Economic Commission for Africa. (SARDC -- SADC Today)
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