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Joint Press Statement - Sadc Force in DRC conflict welcome: But what about the other burning hotspot

10 May 2023

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition and the Southern African People’s Solidarity Network (SAPSN) welcome the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) leaders’ renewed commitment to ‘finding a coordinated and lasting solution’ to the conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, following the Extra-Ordinary Summit of Organ Troika, Plus Sadc Troika and Force Intervention Brigade Troop Contributing Countries Heads of State and Government, that was held on the 8th of May, 2023 in Windhoek, Namibia.

We highly commend the Windhoek Communique resolutions 10 and 11 which “approved the deployment of a Sadc Force within the framework of the Sadc Standby Force as a regional response in support of the DRC to restore peace and security in Eastern DRC, and approved a Sadc Common Position to have a more coordinated approach, given the multiple deployments under multilateral and bilateral arrangements in the Eastern DRC, and urged the Government of the DRC to put in place the necessary conditions and measures for effective coordination amongst sub-regional forces and bilateral partners operating in the DRC.” We are of the same view that deepened Sadc collaboration with the United Nations, African Union, regional and national bodies is critical to the resolution of growing conflicts in the region. We however express our concern with Sadc’s reliance on military instruments to tackle crisis hotspots in the region and urge the transformation of Sadc’s security and governance architecture to facilitate the pursuit of a just and sustainable peace. A just and sustainable peace in the Sadc region must be centred on measures to address the root causes of violent conflicts, especially the unrestrained competition for natural resources and the weakening of democratic conditions. We further call upon Sadc leaders to demonstrate similar fortitude towards resolving other conflicts that are happening in other parts of the region in particular Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Upcoming elections in these conflicted countries present serious risks for the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms by citizens and dissenting voices.

We therefore urge Sadc leaders to do more to ensure adherence to Sadc’s own principles and guidelines governing democratic elections. This includes the callous murder of Advocate Thulani Maseko in January 2023.

A human rights advocate, Maseko was the Chairperson of the Swaziland Multistakeholder Forum when he was brutally murdered at his home by alleged state hit men, and so far no arrests have been made. Following the assassination, the Sadc Organ Chairperson, Namibian President, His Excellency Dr Hage Geingob issued a statement on January 23 2023 urging the Eswatini administration to ensure justice in the killing of Maseko. “ … the Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini must ensure that the killing of Mr. Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice,” read part of the statement.

It is therefore shocking that three months later, Sadc has chosen to remain silent on the situation in Eswatini, and yet the regional bloc has a clearly spelt out role to reign in member states that deviate from the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.

Meanwhile, the human rights situation in Eswatini has continued to deteriorate, with King Mswati’s government being accused of further deploying hired mercenaries to abduct, torture and murder activists and sympathisers of the peoples’ struggle. In 2023 alone and since the death of Maseko, at least 11 activists have been abducted, murdered and thrown in the mountains by Mswati’s hired mercenaries.

We take this opportunity to remind Sadc of its mandate to hold member states to account; more importantly the Sadc bloc must prioritise the citizens of Sadc over leaders who come and go. It is in the best interest of Sadc to protect its citizens, rather than shield leaders who abuse citizens and trample on democratic norms and processes.

It is only logical that in line with President Geingob’s statement of January 2023, the summit must have demanded answers from Eswatini on the assassination of Thulani Maseko. Ignoring the plight of the people of Eswatini will only escalate tensions and result in more turmoil. _____________________________________________________________________________ FOR ANY COMMENTS, PLEASE CONTACT: Obert Masaraure, Spokesperson, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, +2782729521

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