Zim On SADC Meeting Agenda

Zimbabwe, which has failed to fulfill the Global Political Agreement (GPA) that brought in the new unity government in 2009, is expected to hold fresh polls this year despite squabbles about the new constitution between the former ruling party Zanu (PF) and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Zanu (PF)’s President Robert Mugabe wants elections in March with or without the new constition while the MDC wants SADC to help Zimbabwe implement measures that will enable a free and fair election first before fresh polls are held. MDC does not want a repeat of the 2008 election violence.

Also top on the agenda at the Thursday SADC meeting is the conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and Madagascar’s political crisis.

The meeting to be hosted by Tanzaniana president Jakaya Kikwete will be attended by Zimbabwe’s mediator, South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma and his counterpart Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia as well as President Armando Emilio Guebuza of Mozambique.

Aly Kombo, spokesman for the Tanzanian foreign affairs ministry told AFP:
“They’ll examine the situation in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar and Zimbabwe.”

A preparatory meeting at ministerial level had taken place Wednesday.

The DR Congo army last year faced an offensive launched in the east of the country by the M23 rebel movement that in November took the key town of Goma.

The rebels finally pulled out of Goma on December 1 with the promise of negotiations with the DR Congo government.

Regional countries from the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) have been trying since July to set up a neutral international force to neutralise the numerous militia groups that prey on civilians in eastern DR Congo.

The 15-nation SADC, at its last summit here in December, said it would activate its regional standby force in order to deploy it in the framework of the neutral force.

Tanzania said it would send a battalion and command the force.

DR Congo and the UN both accuse Rwanda and Uganda of providing military assistance to the M23. Kigali and Kampala, both ICGLR members, deny the accusations. Radio VOP/AFP