CM – DM168 AFRO DISPATCHES: Southern Africa in crisis: SADC interventions usually come too little – and too late


Images and videos of murder, torture, beatings, arson attacks and other violence have surfaced in Eswatini, depicting a kingdom where human rights do not exist. (Photo: Delivered)

Southern Africa has long been proud to be the most stable and peaceful region on the continent. But that complacency has been shaken lately. The first violent extremism related to the Islamic State visited the region in the form of a bloody uprising that broke out in Mozambique’s northernmost province of Cabo Delgado in October 2017 and is still raging.

The southern neighborhood was shocked to see them on their own doorstep Witnessed scenes of chaos previously confined to East Africa, West Africa and the Sahel; Civilians and soldiers who were beheaded or shot by fanatical jihadists, entire cities fell victim to the insurgents and tens of thousands of people had to flee for their lives as refugees.

And then in the last few weeks Eswatini, that of the region for a long time, exploded rather leniently was viewed as a kind of rather harmless theme park of anachronistic monarchy, in severe violence, in which security forces, according to the opposition, killed at least 52 people.

Pictures of demonstrators who were shot or otherwise attacked and maimed were in the social Media published and reviewed by Daily Maverick. And the protesters wreaked billions in destruction on assets like supermarkets, government offices and delivery vehicles.

The region is being forced to stand up and pay attention. This includes the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the intergovernmental organization of 16 South African countries that is not known for its activism to forestall violent outbreaks by properly addressing early warning signs of impending conflict.

The SADC has stolen before Elections and other political abuses in member states such as Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia, Mozambique and Eswatini mostly turned a blind eye, although these abuses are officially recognized in SADC’s own doctrines and systems as potential precursors of greater violence.

Last year, Liesl Louw-Vaudran, Senior Researcher and Head of the SADC Project at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), sharply compared the relative inertia of SADC with the activism of its counterpart, the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), in an article Heads of State at that time tried to resolve the political crisis in Ma li and had previously intervened in countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau and Gambia.

Louw-Vaudran, for example, quoted the former people’s protector Thuli Madonsela and asked why the SADC was not taking steps to resolve the conflict in Zimbabwe as Ecowas did in West Africa.

« If this were Ecowas, there would have been a long time ago meeting with President [Emmerson] Mnangagwa to ask him to explain what was going on » She quoted Madonsela as saying to SABC.

Madonsela probably had Operation Restore Democracy in mind when Ecowas sent a military force to Gambia in January 2017 to force President Yahya Jammeh to resign after he lost the elections had, but had refused to step down.

It was and remains unthinkable that the SADC would intervene militarily to overthrow an incumbent leader, in large part because they were essentially too one A club of former liberation movements that have been in power since independence and have no desire to do without it.

Aside from looking each other in the back, this ethos of the former liberation movements – Zanu-PF in Zimbabwe, Chama Cha Mapinduzi in Tanzania, MPLA in Angola, Frelimo in Mozambique, Namibia’s Swapo and South Africa’s ANC – it is difficult for SADC to object to undemocratic behavior in other member states such as Zambia, where President Edgar Lungu is reducing the democratic space.

Louw-Vaudran also mentioned in her report the sluggishness of the SADC in dealing with the rapidly growing uprising in Mozambique over the past three years.

Since then, a devastating attack by the jihadists has forced Al Sunnah wa Jama (ASWJ) (locally also known as al-Shabaab) to the city of Palma in March of this year the French energy giant Total, its liquefied natural gas processing plant in near Afungi and g A $ 60 billion project that Mozambique depends on to lift its people out of poverty is jeopardized.

The Palma attack that killed a South African contractor and that involved several South African companies supporting Total Subcontracted were closed, finally forced the SADC to focus on the uprising.

In June, at a summit in Maputo, the SADC leaders agreed to deploy a military intervention in Cabo Delgado to deal with the fighting To help Mozambican security forces defeat al-Shabaab and drive them out of areas under their control, such as the port city of Mocimboa da Praia.

However, it remains doubtful whether the proposed force will eventually be deployed, as Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi apparently always does other options such as accepting an offer from Rwandan troops to fight the insurgents are preferred.

In Eswatini, G e violence and bloodshed for getting SADC to act. On June 30, Habib Kambanga, head of SADC’s Regional Early Warning Center (REWC) in Gaborone, told the ISS that it was not necessary to put Eswatini on the agenda of the SADC’s political, defense and security body, the organisation’s troubleshooting arm .

« SADC REWC monitors political and security threats in all member states, including Eswatini, » he said. « According to the officials in Eswatini the situation is not out of control, if this is the case it cannot be an item on the agenda for the SADC meeting for the time being. »

Two days later, Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi, currently chairman of the SADC, announced Security organ to send a delegation of foreign ministers to Eswatini to enable an “open political dialogue” to defuse the crisis.

It was the first time that Eswatini was put on the agenda of the security organ as far as anyone was concerned could remember. This is a place that SADC member states are ashamed of for failing to keep their own houses in order and for needing help from neighbors. It also means that their stranglehold on power is potentially in jeopardy.

SADC appears to have been stimulated to action by the bloodshed and property destruction. Pretoria, in particular, appears to have spurred the organization into action, alarmed and dismayed that the protesters had targeted South African property – apparently because they believed that South Africa was not using its potential influence on King Mswati of Eswatini.

The SADC security organization delegation led by Botswana’s Foreign Minister Lemogang Kwape, South Africa’s Naledi Pandor and Zimbabwe’s Frederick Shava visited Eswatini to meet their counterpart Thuli Dladla and some civil society representatives handpicked by the Mswati government because they are not too critical.

The real opposition – a collection of civil society groups and political parties loosely organized as a multi-stakeholder coordination team – had to break off the meeting. His representatives briefly brought up their case, but then said they needed more time to get their position right. SADC ministers agreed to return to Eswatini at a later date to hear them.

In a letter sent on July 7th by prominent Swazi human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko, chairman of the Multi-Stakeholders Coordinating Team SADC wrote that the group said the country’s fundamental problem is political – a lack of democratic accountability – and therefore requires a democratic solution.

A five- Called the point plan. This was an all-encompassing, mediated political dialogue / negotiation; complete lifting of the ban on political parties; a transitional enforcement agency; a new democratic constitution; and a multi-party democratic dispensation.

Maseko told DM168 that the future of the monarchy should be added to the list. Although Swazis were willing to consider the possibility of converting the absolute monarchy into a constitutional monarchy, the current violence against demonstrators by security forces on behalf of the king has led some opposition members to believe that the monarchy should be abolished overall.

Maseko also wrote to the incumbent Prime Minister of Mswati, Themba Masuku, on July 7, proposing a dialogue between the multi-stakeholder coordination team and the government on the same principles. Maseko told DM168 that Masuku hadn’t responded yet. The letter was in part a response to Masuku’s complaint to a delegation of church leaders last week that the government was ready to talk but didn’t know who to talk to.

Whether the SADC in Eswatini can make a difference is controversial. His intervention in Zimbabwe, led by South Africa after violent elections in 2008, resulted in a unity government that included the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. But President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF did not give up any real power and returned to its previous exclusive power after the 2013 elections.

And it must intervene much earlier in crises like Mozambique and Eswatini before they get out of hand or threaten. His early warning system cannot just be an intelligence apparatus to warn ruling regimes of possible threats to their power. It really has to be used as an instrument to warn the region as a whole that undemocratic behavior by one of its members endangers the stability and thus the prosperity not only of this country but also of the entire neighborhood. DM168

Mozambique and Eswatini are not the only trouble spots or potential trouble spots in southern Africa. Due to the recent violence and destruction, they are currently high on the agenda of the regional troubleshooting committee, the organ for politics, defense and security cooperation of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). But some other nations are seething among the 16 member states of SADC, some with underlying problems that have never been fully addressed and that could boil over if not addressed.

ZIMBABWE: It was once on the SADC agenda, it was true but resolved after the 2013 elections and especially after Robert Mugabe was overthrown in November 2017 by a palace revolt / military coup that replaced him with Emmerson Mnangagwa. But the ruling Zanu-PF is continuing its undemocratic practices, including low-level violence against the opposition political party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). While the MDC’s problems are in part self-created, Zanu-PF is clearly doing its utmost to destabilize the opposition with a policy of divide and rule directed against Nelson Chamisa’s main MDC faction, the MDC Alliance. The economy remains a mess.

CONGO DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC: SADC has ignored Félix Tshisekedi’s alleged election theft in 2018, which most independent observers believe was easily won over by Martin Fayulu. Still, Tshisekedi, having given up his de facto coalition with his predecessor Joseph Kabila and embarking on a more positive new direction, has encouraged the region and the international community. However, the chances of democratic, peaceful and fair elections in 2023 remain uncertain.

ZAMBIA: The country was never officially in the naughty corner of SADC, although the current President Edgar Lungu deserves it, his critics say. It follows a well-known African playbook in which he tries to smother political opposition, mainly the President’s eternal challenger, Hakainde Hichilema, the leader of the United Party for National Development, with hooks or crooks. This included the treason charge when his convoy failed to make way for Lungus on a country road in 2017. Hichilema and other opposition leaders launched an unsuccessful legal challenge to Lungu’s right to run again in August that year, saying it was his third election and therefore unconstitutional. He countered that his first term of office from January 2015 to July 2016 did not count as he only fulfilled the term of office of his predecessor Michael Sata, who died in office. The Constitutional Court rejected the opposition’s challenge.

LESOTHO: The nation was on the SADC agenda for several years after Prime Minister Tom Thabane had to flee his country after a brief military coup in August 2014. Assassinations and military interference in politics followed. Starting in November 2017, SADC deployed a small military and police force for several months to stabilize the country and enable far-reaching political and military reforms. The country has been stable since Thabane’s Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro became Prime Minister at the head of a broad coalition last year. But reforms are far from complete, and so the potential for instability remains.

MALAWI: President Lazarus Chakwera only got his office through a 2020 re-election after a courageous Supreme Court annulled the re-election of incumbent Peter Mutharika in May 2019. These were called « Tippex » elections because so many ballot papers were forged with white erasers. Chakwera seems to have brought greater political stability.

COMOROS: This archipelago state in the Indian Ocean is the newest member of SADC and joined in August 2017. President Azali Assoumani’s party won the 2020 general election boycotted by the opposition who believed it was being manipulated. Clearly, this was not a recipe for long-term stability.

MADAGASCAR: The country had been on SADC’s fault list for several years since 2009 when it suspended the nation after Andry Rajoelina overthrew President Marc Ravalomanana in a military coup. With elections in 2014, SADC helped facilitate the return to democracy. She disputedly excluded the bitter rivals from the candidacy and the former finance minister Hery Rajaonarimampianina emerged as the winner of chaotic polls. In 2018 the old rivals faced each other and Rajoelina won, although Ravalomanana inevitably cried a foul. It has been relatively quiet in the country since then, although it is not clear whether this will remain the case in the next elections. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available free of charge to Pick n Pay smart shoppers in these Pick n Pay stores.

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