On 17 August 2022 the Southern African Development Community (SADC) held its 42nd Ordinary Summit in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The Summit was attended by most of the heads of state and/or government from the bloc, which met under the theme “Promoting industrialisation through agro-processing, mineral beneficiation and regional value chains for inclusive and resilient economic growth.”
#SADC’s 42nd Summit took steps to manage instability in Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and the DRC @SADC_newsTweet
The Summit ushered in the new chairperson of SADC, President Tshisekedi of the DRC, who will be succeeded by the President of Angola. The Summit also saw Namibia take over as the chair of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation (the Organ), with Zambia set to take over the role after Namibia.
South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, as the SADC facilitator to the Kingdom of Lesotho, gave a progress report on the ongoing SADC interventions in the Kingdom. Lesotho has long been challenged by political instability and military overreach into political matters that has resulted in SADC involvement in the country over a number of years. In an interview following the Summit, President Ramaphosa indicated that the progress report was well received by the Summit. Lesotho is currently undertaking a number of reforms, especially to its political systems. The Prime Minister at the Summit is said to have described the moment as a ‘rebirth’ of the Kingdom, in which SADC has played a key role.
The Summit also approved the establishment of an oversight committee made up of the SADC Panel of Elders and the Mediation Reference Group to continue to conduct oversight on the implementation process in the Kingdom. The political situation in the Kingdom is likely to remain a topic of discussion with regard to peace and security in the bloc, as Lesotho has called for elections in early October. However, elections have been called before the reforms process has been completed, which could cause complications for the elections. While at the Summit in Kinshasa, Prime Minister Majoro declared a state of emergency in Lesotho, after two key reform bills, the Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution Bill 2022 and National Assembly Electoral Amendment Act were not passed in parliament before its dissolution in July. The state of emergency would allow for the recalling of parliament in order to pass the bills. This decision now poses questions of whether or not a state of emergency has been called on legitimate grounds by the Prime Minister, i.e. is there currently an emergency in the Kingdom? Therefore, if Lesotho’s parliament does sit again under the current state of emergency and does pass the outstanding bills, but the state of emergency is found to be illegitimate, and therefore the recalling of parliament improper, this could lead to a constitutional challenge in the Kingdom just before the elections. While SADC may be pleased with the progress made in Lesotho thus far, the oversight committee may find itself faced with more work.
The Summit also considered a report on the other Kingdom in the bloc, Eswatini. Thus far, aside from the working group sent to Eswatini at the end of 2021, SADC engagement with the current political situation has been limited, and Eswatini has often found itself off the agenda at SADC Meetings. However, the 42nd Summit mandated the chairperson of the Organ to convene an extraordinary summit of the organ troika plus Eswatini with the aim of finding a peaceful and lasting solution to the current challenges faced in the Kingdom. While a date has yet to be set for the extraordinary summit, this is one of the most significant decisions that SADC has taken with regard to Eswatini thus far, and it does signify a willingness for SADC to engage with the current unrest in Eswatini.
The extension of #SAMIM’s deployment to #CaboDelgado indicate a commitment by @SADC_news to continue to play a role in ending the conflictTweet
With regard to one of the more violent conflicts in the region, the Summit approved the extension of the SADC Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM), which had its mission temporarily extended earlier in the year pending the decision of this summit. The extension of SAMIM does indicate a commitment on SADC’s part to continue to play a role in ending the conflict in Cabo Delgado.
Another topic that was discussed at the Summit is the resurgence of conflict in the eastern DRC. SADC troops have had a long presence in the DRC, with the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), the offensive combative force of the United Nations (UN) Peacekeeping Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), made up entirely of troops from SADC countries. The FIB had initial success in combating the M23 rebels, and soon turned its attention to other armed groups in the DRC. However, the SADC identity of the FIB has been challenged in recent times, with the UN reconfiguring the FIB to include non-SADC troops. SADC initially resisted these changes but has since come to accept them. The 42nd Summit has mandated the chairperson of the ministerial committee of the Organ and the Organ troika of FIB Troop Contributing Countries to engage the UN Secretary General on the margins of the upcoming UN General Assembly in September to explore more avenues of support to ensure that the peace and security situation improves in the eastern DRC.
Outside of security issues in member states, the Summit also welcomed the establishment of the SADC Regional Counter-Terrorism Centre (SADC-RCTC) in Tanzania. The SADC-RCTC will co-ordinate counter terrorism activities in the region and encourage information sharing amongst member states on terrorism, radicalism and violent extremism. The establishment of SADC-RCTC will hopefully bring about a more co-ordinated effort to combat terrorism in the region, while also acknowledging that the issue of terrorism is one that SADC will be seized with in the foreseeable future.
Progress was also made on the establishment of the SADC Humanitarian and Emergency Operations Centre, while the Protocol against Trafficking in Persons was also adopted and signed at the Summit. The Protocol will provide a framework in which to combat trafficking in persons across the SADC borders, activities associated with organised crime and extremist organisations in the region.
One of the most significant developments to come out of the Summit that was not related to peace and security was the approval and signing of the Agreement Amending the SADC Treaty on Transformation of the SADC Parliamentary Forum into a SADC Parliament. Transforming the Parliamentary Forum into a SADC Parliament, thus giving the entity greater powers, could have a major effect on the ways in which SADC operates and governs itself.
The 42nd Summit saw a number of key decisions taken with regard to peace and security in the bloc. While issues relating to peace and security cannot be rectified overnight, hopefully by the 43rd SADC Summit, and as SADC celebrates its 30-year anniversary, progress will have been made on these challenges to peace and security in the region.
Katharine Bebington is a Programme Officer in the Research Unit at ACCORD.