Political and military interventions guarantee regional stability
“Unfortunately there were a number of casualties among people that our family knows, which has been difficult for the kids. A girl in our son’s class that also rides the kids’ school bus was wounded, and her father was killed.
“A student, a year younger than our son, was wounded and his mother was killed. A student that the kids know from a different school was shot and severely wounded, and his mother and a sibling were unaccounted for as of the last time we received news.
“The mother of a girl on our son’s swim team was killed. There were quite a number of girls from our son’s grade that were in the mall for a surprise birthday party. Two of them were held hostage but somehow got out. None of the others were held or injured.”
This is one witness account of the 2013 Kenya Westgate Mall attacks that were committed by suspected al-Shabaab militants on unsuspecting civilians. Later, investigators described the mall attack scene. Their report read:
“The al-Shabaab terrorists who seized a Kenyan shopping mall for four days tortured, maimed and mutilated some of their 67 victims, leaving a tattered scene of ghoulish, gruesome remains that investigators likened to scenes from a horror movie.
“Hostages were left hanging and had their eyes gouged, others were dismembered. Others had their throats slashed or were castrated and had fingers amputated, according to media reports quoting soldiers, medical personnel and investigators sorting through the rubble of the collapsed mall.”
These sad stories serve to remind us all of the priceless peace of mind that we enjoy particularly in Zimbabwe and generally in our SADC region. While some people are of the opinion that the placid persona of Southern Africans is the primary reason for our relative tranquillity, I must reiterate that the SADC Politics, Defence and Security Framework to date has contributed to relative regional stability. Someone may ask: what has SADC achieved in the areas of politics, defence and security in recent times? Here are some examples:
Democratic Republic of Congo
M23 rebel fighters (who were largely responsible for widespread war crimes in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), including summary executions, rapes, and the forced recruitment of children) were in 2013 successfully defeated by forces consisting of SADC troops.
In the words of Zimbabwe’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Simbarashe Mumbembegwi “the armed forces of the DRC assisted by the SADC Intervention Brigade were able to subdue the M23, the FDLR and the other negative forces in the region”.
Following the Madagascar coup, SADC intervened as a political mediator. The regional body suspended Madagascar’s membership, and explicitly supported ousted president Ravalomanana as the elected, constitutional head of state. The then executive secretary of SADC, Tomaz Salomão, called on Rajoelina to vacate the office of the president as a matter of urgency and this paved the way for the unconditional reinstatement of President Ravalomanana. Furthermore, SADC threatened sanctions and even discussed, albeit quietly, a potential military intervention by its standby brigade.
Ultimately, after mediation efforts to ensure constitutional order returned to Madagascar, the SADC suspension of Madagascar was lifted. International reports noted this as “a victory for the SADC’s much-maligned “quiet diplomacy”.
In 2008, Zimbabwe was submerged in a crisis characterised by economic meltdown, and disputed elections. Faced with internal instability and international isolation, it was SADC’s mediation in Zimbabwe that brought about the Global Political Agreement (GPA). The GPA returned the country to normalcy and gave birth to a new Zimbabwean constitution prior to the July 2013 elections.
Analysts have observed that “SADC’s involvement in Zimbabwe… [was] to support institutional and constitutional reform, prepare ground for credible elections and continue policing the political developments.”
Arguably, SADC’s mediation mandate in Zimbabwe was achieved, and Zimbabwe was struck off the SADC crisis agenda in August 2013.
The aforementioned examples perhaps demonstrate the importance of SADC’s regional intervention in political and military matters. It is in the light of an increasingly worrying global trend of terrorism and radicalism on the part of extremist groups that are willing to use unjust, unconstitutional and violent means to achieve their ends that SADC member states should seek to reaffirm their cooperation in terms of political interventionism and regional security.
• Tau Tawengwa is a researcher, he can be reached onTraytau@gmail.com; www.zimrays.org