By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Twelve legislators from member states of the Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum (SADCPF) were this week sent to the Democratic Republic of Congo for poll monitoring. The historic elections in the DRC, the first in over four decades, will take place at the end of July, finally ushering in a democratic government, according to SADCPF Secretary General Dr Kasuka Mutukwa. Mutukwa said the different members of parliament, including Swapo Member of parliament Peya Mushelenga, are currently in the DRC to commence familiarization with the environment, context and preparation for the elections. The forum is already on standby, with 100 MPs to observe the planned elections in the vast African state. Each member state will send a minimum of five parliamentarians and other representatives from the Women Parliamentary Caucus. Mutukwa could not reveal who would comprise the Namibian delegation. The SADCPF SG views the upcoming elections in the DRC as an enormous challenge for the entire region. “There will be thousands of polling stations and this is a country that does not have proper roads,” Mutukwa told New Era in an interview. Recently, President Hifikepunye Pohamba and his Botswana counterpart Festus Mogae pledged continued support for conflict-resolution because instability stunts the socio-economic development of SADC member states. Since the implementation of its strategic plan 2000-2005, the forum has been involved in observing elections in the region. In 2001, it adopted recommendations on norms and standards for democracy in SADC. The forum would from June 01 to June 10 host its 20th plenary assembly in Maputo, Mozambique. This will also mark the 10th anniversary of the formation of the forum. According to Mutukwa, the anniversary will be an occasion for parliamentarians to assess the regional developmental contribution made in the past 10 years. “The anniversary reflections will emphasise the need to reach agreement on bold, action-oriented outcomes. The goal is to achieve a number of outcome landmarks with the involvement of relevant stakeholders,” he stated. Plans are also underway to create a parliament for SADC that would play a harmonising role on issues that need to be dealt with at regional level. It is only the SADC region that lacks a body that would ensure the voice of parliament is legalised, Mutukwa said. Since the beginning of this year, the forum established the Parliamentary Leadership Centre (PLC) serving as a hub for knowledge sharing among MPs in the region. Mutukwa revealed that the forum has been fully engaged in advancing common positions on regional issues such as seeking leadership of MPs on combating of HIV/AIDS and promoting programmes for gender equality. Increased or equitable participation of women in politics and positions of decision-making remains a challenge for the forum. The forum has played a leading role in ensuring gender balance at all levels, with 51 percent of all positions at SADCPF being held by women. Mutukwa stated that the way forward at this plenary assembly hinges on the strategic plan, which is a commitment for action and serves as a final key player in the implementation of the forum’s programmes for 2006-2010. The SADCPF was founded in 1996, with the late Dr MosÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â ‘ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â© Tjitendero as its founding chairperson until 1999.