WINDHOEK – The Southern African Community Development (SADC) Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, which is managed on a Troika basis, is demanding that M23 rebels cease all military activities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) forthwith.
The M23 rebellion is a continuation of the fighting in the eastern part of the DRC since the formal end of the second war in 2003. In April 2012, former members of the National Congress for the Defence of the People, a political, armed militia that goes by the acronym CNDP mutinied against the DRC government supported by the UN peacekeepers – the United Nations Organisation Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). The mutineers formed a rebel group called the March 23 Movement (M23), allegedly sponsored by the government of neighbouring Rwanda.
In a communiqué issued following the summit of the Troika in Windhoek, SADC urged M23 rebels to stop the war and threats of overthrowing the lawful government of the DRC led by Joseph Kabila. It also appealed to neighbouring countries and all nations to contribute to the peace, security and stability of the DRC.
The Troika summit in Windhoek on Wednesday discussed matters that are threatening peace and security in the SADC region. On the agenda were the conflict in the eastern DRC and recent political developments in Madagascar.
Opening the summit officially, chairperson of the Troika President Hifikepunye Pohamba said the situation in the eastern DRC remains a great concern to the regional body and condemned the recent attack on MONUSCO forces by M23 rebels with the support of their allies. It is reported that one peacekeeper was killed in the attack and many civilians injured. Pohamba said such attacks undermine the ongoing efforts to restore peace and stability in the eastern part of the DRC.
SADC has pledged its continued support for the people of the DRC and welcomed the peace talks that are currently underway between the DRC government and the M23 rebels mediated by Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni. President Kabila was among the SADC leaders who attended the summit on Wednesday.
The summit commended the progress made in the deployment of an intervention brigade in the eastern DRC by Malawi, Tanzania and South Africa under the auspices of MONUSCO and expressed concern over the deployment of Rwandan troops along the common border with the DRC. Troika leaders also expressed the hope that Rwanda is not contemplating to invade the DRC for this would complicate an already delicate and volatile situation.
The Troika further urged the international community to increase its humanitarian support in order to alleviate the suffering of the civilian population in the eastern DRC. The SADC Secretariat has been directed to consult with the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) Secretariat to prepare for a joint SADC/ICGLR summit to take place as soon as possible.
With regard to the political turmoil in Madagascar, President Pohamba said the Troika leaders welcomed the latest political developments in Madagascar, particularly the reconstitution of the Special Electoral Court and the withdrawal of nine presidential candidates, which include three prominent political leaders, whose registration had not complied with the laws of Madagascar. Last month the names of President Andry Rajoelina, Lalao Ravalomanana the wife of Marc Ravalomanana who was toppled from power by Rajoelina in 2009 and Didier Ratsiraka, who lives in exile in France were removed from the list by the Electoral Court since they were found not to have met the full requirements of taking part in the elections. The court said Rajoelina did not file his candidacy papers before the deadline, while Ravalomanana and Ratsiraka had not lived in Madagascar for the past six months.
“Similarly, the announcement of new election dates is a positive and encouraging development. We call upon the Malagasy authorities to ensure that the elections are held in terms of the agreed timelines and the Malagasy electoral laws,” said Pohamba.
Former Mozambican president and SADC mediator on Madagascar Joachim Chissano also attended the Windhoek summit. Pohamba commended Chissano for his sterling work as a mediator, saying he has worked tirelessly towards the resolution of the impasse and the holding of democratic elections in that sister country. “The Malagasy people have yearned for peace and stability for too long, it is time for a new beginning,” Pohamba said.
The summit also called on the international community to urgently provide financial, technical, material and logistical support for the holding of peaceful, free and credible elections in that country and also to support the socio-economic recovery programmes of Madagascar. The Troika leaders say the right of all Malagasy exiles, including Marc Ravalomanana to return to the country should be respected and promised to send an Electoral Observer Mission to Madagascar for the presidential polls scheduled for 25 October, 2013. Namibia was elected to serve as the chair of the Troika at the last SADC summit held in Malawi in August and this is why the summit convened in Windhoek.
By Tonateni Shidhudhu