As a SADC hosts the extraordinary summit of heads of state and government today, a political analyst view that pressing issues such as the Mozambique security crisis and the deadly Covid-19 will be top on the agenda.
The SADC heads of state will meet in Maputo, Mozambique, to discuss issues of regional integration, cooperation and development.
Mozambique has battled an uprising in northern Cabo Delgado province on the border with Tanzania against a group known as Al-Shabaab with no relation to the Somali-based terror group of the same name.
The attacks in Cabo Delgado province began in October 2017 on police stations in Mocimboa da Praia District, and spread to other districts of Cabo Delgado, notably in Macomia, Palma and Nangade.
The militants have launched a series of attacks on towns and villages to establish an Islamic caliphate. On 24 March, the militants, during an attack on the northeastern coastal town of Palma, looted buildings and beheaded civilians. The meeting of the SADC standing committee of senior officials started on Monday, followed by another one of SADC council of ministers yesterday.
The heads of state are expected to convene their meeting today, with Filipe Jacinto Nyusi, president of Mozambique, chairing the extraordinary summit in his capacity as the current chairperson of SADC.
The summit will, among the key issues, discuss the regional response and support to Mozambique in addressing terrorism, regional food and nutrition security, gender and development, and progress in the regional response to HIV and AIDS, and the Covid-19 pandemic.
By the beginning of May 2021, the majority of southern African countries, with the exception of Mauritius and Seychelles, had not fully vaccinated even 1% of their populations against Covid-19.
The sub-region has entered a particularly perilous stage of the pandemic with the arrival of the Indian and UK variants having been confirmed.
However, SADC, comprising 16 member states, has been criticised for providing no meaningful guidance to accelerate this sluggish rollout. Political analyst Ndumba Kamwanyah said although a number of key issues have been lined up, he believes the Mozambique conflict and Covid-19 will take centre stage for obvious reasons. “First, they will probably take a collective stand against the rebellious and terrorist activities happening in some parts of that country. So, from that perspective, we have to expect a strong condemnation in support of one of their own, who happens to be the current chairperson of SADC,” Kamwanyah observed. He also said Covid-19 caused havoc in the region; therefore, it is imperative that they will try to find ways to coordinate and harmonise member countries’ responses.
“What I don’t understand is, why hold a face-to-face summit during this trying time? Best advice to do a virtual summit; otherwise, they are undermining their own efforts to halt the pandemic,” he said.
Several member states have declared days of national mourning in honour of Zambia’s late first president, Kenneth Kaunda, who played a pivotal role in the formation of the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC), the forerunner to SADC. In this regard, the SADC flag and those of SADC member states shall be flown at half-mast during the extraordinary summit and preceding meetings.
The summit will review progress made in the implementation of the theme of the 40th SADC Summit: ‘SADC: 40 Years Building Peace and Security, and Promoting Development and Resilience in the Face of Global Challenges’, which was endorsed by the SADC Summit in August 2020.