The Common Market for East and Central Africa (COMESA) and the African Center for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to deepen collaboration in the area of peace and security. The MoU, was signed on the margins of the 25th Ordinary Session of the African Union in Johannesburg, South Africa by Mr Sindiso Ngwenya, Secretary General of COMESA and Mr Vasu Gounden, Founder and Executive Director of ACCORD. The signing of the MoU has come at a time that COMESA Programme on Peace and Security commences implementation of its 2015-2018 Strategic Plan. It has also come at a time that both organisations strive to support the target that was set by the 21st Ordinary Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union to silence the guns on the continent by 2020, as captured in Vision 2020.
Both organisations bring on board competences, which when combined will make their contributions to silencing the guns more effective.
COMESA has had an active programme on Peace and Security since 2001 and it has, over the years developed tools and mechanisms to supporting the transformation of the COMESA into a peaceful, prosperous and secure region. These include a functioning early warning system that is focused on addressing structural factors of conflict and a Committee of Elders for peace making through preventive diplomacy. COMESA through its programme to address post conflict reconstruction and development has established several trade information desks at border areas of the Great Lakes Region to enhance the use of trade and investment as mechanism for peacebuilding. On security, COMESA is implementing a programme to address maritime insecurity by targeting the financial aspects such as money laundering to fight piracy. It has also a programme on democracy and governance that has, among other things seen COMESA observe over twenty-five elections in the region.
ACCORD on its part is a civil society organisation that has been operating in Africa since 1992 and has established offices in Burundi, Juba with its headquarters in Durban, South Africa. Specifically, ACCORD encourages and promotes constructive resolution of disputes by the people of Africa and to achieve political stability, economic recovery and peaceful co-existence. This is done by among other things, facilitating conflict management and promoting mediation as well as dialogue towards peaceful resolution of conflict. ACCORD has been on the forefront of strengthening peace and security institutions on the continent for the past 23 years and intends to share its knowledge and experience with COMESA. Prior to signing the MoU, ACCORD had already implemented several initiatives in support to COMESA; for instance, training on mediation targeted at COMESA Electoral Management Bodies Forum (EMBs) as well as technical support initiatives for the COMESA Committee of Elders.
ACCORD has also had a long and structured partnership with the African Union particularly supporting programmes of the Panel of the Wise as well as training providing mediation expertise and operational support to AU. It is thus intended that a similar partnership with COMESA will synergise the cooperation and partnership under the ambits of the African Peace and Security Architecture.
Going forward, COMESA and ACCORD intend to operationalise the MoU in order to strengthen the partnership and further entrench mediation and dialogue within COMESA’s peace and security agenda.