from ARMANDO DOMINGOS in Maputo, Mozambique
Mozambique Bureau Chief
MAPUTO, (CAJ News) – IN the midst of domestic upheaval triggered by terror and regional turmoil sparked by a global health crisis, Mozambique is assuming the presidency of the Southern African Development (SADC) at a critical juncture of the bloc’s 40-year history.
Underlining the uncertain terms for the regional grouping of 16 states, the bloc’s annual summit is taking place in virtual format because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, a global crisis that has Southern Africa as the worst affected region in the continent.
Given the challenges created by the pandemic, the summit has a reduced agenda and mainly focuses on the transition of the organisation’s presidency from Tanzania to Mozambique. The latter hosts the meeting that began on Monday (August 10) and end on Monday next week (August 17).
The presidency could not have come at a worse time for Mozambique, which last hosted the SADC Summit in 2012, then under the presidency of Armando Guebuza.
It comes at a time the country is beset by an Islamist uprising in the resources-rich northern parts of the country.
An estimated 2 000 people have been killed during the banditry perpetrated in the Cabo Delgado province by the so-called Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jamaah, a sect affiliated to the Islamic State of Iran and Syria (ISIS).
This has resulted in food insecurity in affected regions, at a time Mozambique is reeling from the impact of droughts and cyclones.
There are indications combined forces in the region could intervene to bolster Mozambique’s response, which has presented a dilemma in that ISIS has threatened to expand attacks into the region, particularly regional powerhouse, South Africa.
The outbreak of COVID-19 is another calamitous development in the region.
A majority of the over 1 million cases in the continent are in Southern Africa.
More than half are in South Africa, which is among the five countries most hit by the outbreak in the world.
South Africa also accounts for 85 percent of cases in East and Southern Africa, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
It is therefore apt that the SADC Summit is being held under the lengthy theme, “SADC: 40 Years Building Peace and Security, Promoting Development and Resilience in the Face of Global Challenges.”
According to SADC, the theme aims to reflect on achievements attained by the bloc and exploring measures to address challenges facing the region.
The summit, which started on Monday with a virtual meeting of the SADC Standing Committee of Senior Officials is expected to end on 17th August.
It is a technical advisory committee which reviews and clears documents for the SADC Council of Ministers.
Brigadier General Wilbert Augustin Ibuge, Tanzania Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, welcomed the support given to him during his tenure as chairperson of the council.
He thanked the region’s addressing of issues in the midst of the COVID-19.
Ibuge has handed over the chairpersonship to Fabião Nuvunga, Mozambique director for Regional and Continental Integration in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation.
Among issues to be discussed during the course of the week include the strengthening of strategic policy and programmatic issues aimed at strengthening regional, development, cooperation and integration.
Officials will also take stock of progress made since the last summit, held under the theme, “A Conducive Environment for Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development, Increased Intra-Regional Trade and Job Creation.”
The SADC Post 2020 Agenda, which includes the formulation of SADC Vision 2050, were also up for discussion.
The curtain will come down the summit on Monday when Mozambique president, Filipe Jacinto Nyusi, assumes the chairpersonship of SADC from Tanzania’s Dr John Pombe Joseph Magufuli.
Political analyst, Almiro Marcelino however noted it was apt Mozambique assumed the chairpersonship, considering strides made by the government and the opposition Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO) to establish everlasting peace.
The parties signed a historic pact last year to end years of tensions.
SADC was established in 1980 as the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC) and transformed into its current structure in 1992.
Member states are Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
– CAJ News