The Southern African Development Community (SADC) convened a virtual meeting of the Ministerial Committee of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation (MCO) on 7th July, 2021 to discuss and assess progress on the political and security situation in the Region and beyond.
The meeting was chaired by the Chairperson of the MCO, Honourable Dr. Lemogang Kwape, Minister of International Affairs and Co-operation of the Republic of Botswana. In his opening remarks, Hon. Kwape highlighted that the Region continues to make progress towards the consolidation of democratic ideals, including peace and stability, commending Member States who managed to hold peaceful and credible elections in accordance with their respective Constitutional mandates, despite the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.
The Chairperson of the MCO noted that despite some achievements, there has also been worrying security threats of terrorism and violent extremism in the northern Cabo Delgado province of the Republic of Mozambique, and the volatile security situation in the eastern provinces of North Kivu and Ituri in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as the attendant humanitarian crisis.
Hon. Dr. Kwape said as a result of the prevailing security threats in the Region, the SADC Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government held in Mozambique on 23rd June 2021, endorsed a decision to deploy a SADC Standby Force Mission to the Republic of Mozambique to support the country's efforts in combating terrorism and acts of violent extremism in Cabo Delgado.
Giving her opening remarks, SADC Executive Secretary, Her Excellency Dr. Stergomena Lawrence Tax, said terrorism remains a challenge that requires concerted national and regional efforts. She thanked Member States for measures put in place, and highlighted the need for an effective coordination structure, specifically the need to operationalise the Regional Counter Terrorism Centre, as part of the SADC Regional Counter Terrorism Strategy that was approved by Summit in 2015.
Dr Tax said once the Centre is operational, the Region will enhance efforts and the coordination of measures to address terrorism. The Centre is expected to enable synergies with National Early Warning Centres and the Regional Early Warning Centre.
In mitigating some of the current challenges to peace and stability, Dr. Tax indicated that the SADC Secretariat, in consultation with Member States, has developed an Action Plan for the implementation of the Assessment on Security Threats to the Region. She said once in operation, the Action Plan will contribute towards forging a holistic approach for sustenance of security at both national and regional levels, which among others includes the operationalisation of the Regional Counter Terrorism Centre as part of the SADC Regional Counter Terrorism Strategy approved by Heads of State and Government during Summit in 2015.
The MCO received progress on the operationalisation of the Mechanism in Honour of SADC Founders by among others, naming Government buildings and Parliament offices after the Founders of SADC; in the construction of the statue in honour of H.E. President Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere at the African Union Peace and Security building in Addis Ababa and the status of finalisation of the Hashim Mbita Publications and directed the Secretariat to collaborate with Members States on dissemination of the publications to Member States.
The meeting approved Draft Guidelines for Election Observation Under Public Health Emergencies and the use of the same approach of virtual consultations with stakeholders that was used in 2020 for the Presidential Election in the Republic of Seychelles and the General Elections in the United Republic of Tanzania, and for the same to be used for General Elections in the Republic of Zambia scheduled for 12th August 2021.
The MCO equally approved Regional Strategy and Action Plan to Prevent and Combat Illicit Firearms, Ammunition, and other Related Materials in the Region, Standard Operating Procedures on the implementation of the amended SADC Protocol on the Control of Firearms, Ammunition and other Related Materials, and Strategy and Action Plan to Prevent and Combat Transnational Organised Crime.
Finally, the MCO urged Member States to support the process and efforts of the people and government of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR)/Western Sahara at the African Union and United Nations levels in their endeavour to attain self-rule.