SADC leaders set to meet in Maputo
16 August 2012, 12:32
Maputo - Southern African leaders meet on Friday in
Maputo for a summit that will try to nudge Madagascar and Zimbabwe
toward new elections under "roadmaps" that are a test of the region's
commitment to democracy.
The official focus of the summit is a
$500m proposal to develop roads and railways linking inland nations to
key ports, but serious political issues in the region will dominate the
Most pressing is Madagascar, where the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) is pushing strongman Andry Rajoelina and ousted president Marc Ravalomanana to follow through on a roadmap meant to steer the island nation toward elections.
rivals face a Thursday deadline to reach a deal, but such ultimatums
have already come and gone without ending the crisis sparked by
Rajoelina's 2009 coup.
Rajoelina has consistently blocked
Ravalomanana's return from exile in South Africa. The main stumbling
block is the former leader's conviction over the deaths of 36 protesters
at the hands of his presidential guard. Rajoelina says the conviction
should bar him from standing in the next elections.
plodding along its own path toward elections, under a plan brokered by
SADC in 2008 following a presidential run-off that left more than 200
dead, mostly opposition supporters.
The deal put long-ruling President Robert Mugabe in a unity government with his nemesis Morgan Tsvangirai
as prime minister. After years of delay, their parties have finally
finished a draft constitution meant to pave the way toward new polls.
The document needs voter approval in a referendum, possibly later this year.
the SADC will stand firm on the position that there cannot be an
election under the current constitution," said Jakkie Cilliers,
executive director of South Africa-based Institute for Security Studies.
inherited its current constitution from the colonial Rhodesian regime,
including harsh security laws that Mugabe has toughened over time.
Rights Watch urged SADC to press Zimbabwe "in addressing key human
rights issues, including security sector reform, accountability for past
abuses, and deterring politically motivated violence and other human
Because of SADC's heavy involvement in mediating
those conflicts, both nations will test the mettle of a bloc that
struggles to enforce its own agreed rules on democracy and human rights.
regional court meant to give teeth to those rules was put on ice after
the judges in 2009 ruled against Mugabe's land reforms as racially
"Southern Africa was building a house of justice, a place
where crimes could not go unpunished and victims of injustice and human
rights abuses could turn with confidence, but that house is now in
grave danger," Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu said, urging the leaders to restore the court.
of SADC's problem is its disparate membership - from Africa's last
absolute monarchy in Swaziland, to prosperous democracies like South
Africa and Mauritius.
Among its successes, violent conflicts have largely disappeared from the region.
holds its second peacetime elections on 31 August - although the race
has little competition with President Jose Eduardo dos Santos expected
to easily extend his 33 years in power despite a small protest movement.
human rights environment in Angola with elections fast approaching is
not at all conducive to free, fair, and peaceful elections," said Daniel
Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
"The Angolan government has made sure the vote won't be a fair one," he said, urging effective monitoring at the polls.
last major conflict area is in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where
clashes between rebel movement M23 and the government have displaced 250
000 since April.
While the summit will discuss the violence,
actual mediation efforts are happening within the East African sphere,
"We know that SADC is not going to engage on the
DRC, which is a big concern ... even though the DRC is a member state,"