The now 14-body Southern African inter-governmental grouping has a gargantuan task on its lap; that of solving the volatile security situation in parts of the region. The 15th member state, Madagascar, is currently suspended following a coup d’état by the former Mayor of Antananarivo, the country’s capital, Andry Rajoelina, incurring the group’s wrath.
It was no doubt an honour for Tanzania, its leadership and its people. At the height of the liberation struggle in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, the country played a crucial role to coordinate the great effort that led to the independence of southern Africa. No wonder the country was dubbed the Mecca of the liberation struggle in southern Africa in particular and Africa in general.
Now, when we see all these countries converging here, it is with a great sense of pride that we once again play host to them in different ‘independent’ fashion! But then the region has had, in recent years, insurmountable political and economic problems, some of which have threatened to undo the very foundations for unity, peace, security and national development in the affected countries.
We have the so-dubbed negative forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where M23 rebels have been fighting the establishment in Kinshasa, leaving a trail of killings, plunder and rape in its wake. It is gratifying to note that the Summit in Dar es Salaam yesterday deliberated on the crisis in the DRC, which has seen the strategic eastern city of Goma falling under the control of the M23 rebels, which raises fears of a broader and protracted regional conflict.
Tanzania has pledged one battalion of 800 troops to join the peace-keeping mission in that unfortunate part of the continent. There are also the unresolved issues arising out of electoral discontent in Zimbabwe and Madagascar, which requires the highest degree of diplomacy and mediation to stave off unrest.
Such mediation in Zimbabwe and Madagascar and the physical presence of armed troops in DRC are vital cogs in the region’s wheel of peace that has been threatened with destruction. Any signs of trouble or real confrontation in any member state will impact negatively on the neighbouring countries and entire region.
A stitch in time saves nine as the saying goes. Let’s hope that the Dar es Salaam meetings will come up with tangible solutions to check instability and war threat in the region and thus become that fabled ‘stitch in time’.