Sadc: A commitment to peace

Sadc special forces will help in stabilising the mineral-rich region

Sadc special forces will help in stabilising the mineral-rich region

John Dzimba Correspondent
SADC evolved from the Southern African Development Co-ordination Conference (SADCC), formed in 1980. Its main aim was to reduce the region’s economic dependence on apartheid South Africa and to coordinate investment and trade. Initially, Sadc membership comprised only nine states: Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, but member states have now grown to 15 with the addition of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mauritius, Madagascar, Namibia, Seychelles and South Africa.

During the Sadcc era, its security functions were the responsibility of the separate Front Line States (FLS) grouping, which was established in the 1970s by the United Republic of Tanzania, Mozambique and Zambia specifically to assist in the struggle for the liberation of the White-ruled states of Southern Africa.

The FLS grew out of the Pan African Freedom Movement for East, Central and Southern Africa, to which most of the members belonged.

It had a security co-ordinating structure, known as the Inter-State Defence and Security Committee (ISDSC), which discussed security issues. At Summit level, the FLS included representatives from various liberation movements in its meetings.

As other countries in the region gained independence from colonial rule, they joined the FLS. Thus, Angola joined in 1976, Zimbabwe in 1980, Namibia in 1990 and South Africa in 1994.

The end of apartheid in South Africa had an impact on the original mandate of the FLS with regard to security issues and to the objectives of the organisation as a whole.

The fact that the political climate in the region had changed from that of aggressive confrontation and White-dominated rule to that of regional cooperation and integration, meant that the FLS mandate extended to cover the political, military and security realms. These changes eroded the original objective of the FLS and meant that it required restructuring in order to retain its relevance and ability to address the new regional challenges.

These developments prompted the transformation of Sadcc into Sadc in 1992 at the Windhoek Summit. At this Summit the heads of state and government published a treaty that emphasises human as well as state security, committing members to upholding human rights, democracy and the rule of law, and setting out objectives which include economic integration and the promotion of peace and security. The treaty also called for the establishment of a framework and mechanisms to strengthen regional solidarity, and provide for mutual peace and security.

In 1993, the Sadc Programme of Action proposed the adoption of a ‘new approach to security’, which emphasised the security of people and the non-military dimensions of security; the creation of a forum for mediation and arbitration; reductions in force levels and military expenditure; the introduction of confidence- and security-building measures and non-offensive defence doctrines; and the ratification of key principles of international law governing inter-state relations.

In July 1994, Sadc convened a ministerial workshop in Windhoek on democracy, peace and security which marked a major step on the road to a common political and security regime. It recommended the formation of a Human Rights Commission headed by judges and eminent persons; a Conflict Resolution Forum comprising the foreign ministers of Member States; a Security and Defence Forum composed of ministers responsible for defence, policing and intelligence; a Sadc Sector on Security and Defence; and an autonomous institute for strategic studies.

The Sadc Windhoek Summit of August 1994, attended by heads of state, approved the creation of a Sector on Politics, Diplomacy, International Relations, Defence and Security which was to operate according to certain terms of reference, protocols and guiding principles.

The Windhoek initiative was strengthened by the decision of the FLS to dissolve and ‘become the political and security wing of Sadc’. This notion began to take shape at the Sadc Foreign Ministers’ meeting on defence and security, held in Gaborone in January 1996.

The ministers agreed to recommend to their heads of state that the Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence and Security be created, which would allow greater flexibility and more rapid responses at the highest level to sensitive and potentially explosive situations.

The assumption was that this agreement would allow for a permanent Sadc mechanism, while maintaining the flexible approach of the old FLS grouping.

In 1996, at the Gaborone Summit, Sadc finally agreed to the establishment of the Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation, which incorporated the ISDSC. Its mandate included a long list of principles and methods to be employed by the Sadc Organ on the prevention, management and resolution of conflict by peaceful means.

The list included provisions concerning preventive diplomacy, conflict mediation, negotiations, conciliation, arbitration, adjudication by an international tribunal, and the development of various protocols.

The heads of State and Government signed the Sadc Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation at Blantyre, Malawi, in August 2001.

At the same summit, the Council of Ministers considered and approved the Sadc Mutual Defence Pact, which would be ready for signing by heads of state at the next summit.

The objectives of the Sadc Protocol range from safeguarding the development of the region to developing common approaches to foreign policy. It includes (Article 2h) consideration of the development of a Mutual Defence Pact which would regulate a form of collective security in the region. Such wide-ranging goals need a powerful structure if they are to be attained.

The Organ is given considerable authority but the text makes it clear that the Organ cannot act independently and will have to report to the Sadc Summit.

The Organ chairperson will serve for only one year and can only table matters for discussion by the Sadc Summit through the Summit chairperson.

Article 6 of the Protocol outlines the Inter-State Politics and Diplomacy Committee (ISPDC) which, in a region where diplomacy is often overshadowed by military force, has the rather unenviable task of performing ‘such functions as may be necessary to achieve the objectives of the Organ relating to politics and diplomacy’.

The ISPDC comprises ministers of foreign affairs and allows the Organ to pursue a diplomatic track independent of the ISDSC, which is more likely to be involved in military issues.

The Malawi Summit also confirmed the jurisdiction of the Organ, which is likely to be an important issue of debate. It may involve itself in intra-state and inter-state conflict in the region under many circumstances including conflict over territorial boundaries, a military coup, a condition of insurgency and large-scale violence such as genocide and ethnic cleansing.

The Protocol recognises ‘State Parties’ and ‘non-State’ parties and goes on to list procedures for dealing with each.

Article 11 (4d) states that the Organ will respond to requests by State Parties and will only use diplomatic means where this is not forthcoming. This makes it unlikely that enforcement action will be taken although this is allowed for.

The Organ Chairperson, acting on the advice of the Ministerial Committee may recommend enforcement action to the Summit, though only as a last resort.

The main objective of the Mutual Defence Pact is to operationalise the mechanisms of the Sadc Organ for mutual cooperation in defence and security matters. These include conflict resolution, military preparedness, consultation, collective defence, non-interference, identification of destabilising factors and defence co-operation.

Once they are up and running, these initiatives by Sadc member-states should go a long way towards ensuring the achievement of peace, stability, human security.

They might even create an environment within the subregion that would allow Sadc to concentrate its attention on resources, energy and creative policy formulations that could lead to economic growth and sustainable development. — ISS Africa.

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