Heads of state and governments in both the Southern African and the Great Lakes regions plan to meet in the South African capital, Pretoria, Monday, to review the security situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The summit is organized by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR).
It’s the follow-up to an agreement signed between the two groups last February to find ways of addressing the security challenges within the DRC.
“This [summit] is a follow up to ensure that there is a full implementation of this framework [and] to review the implementation process and a way forward,” said Tanki Mothae, SADC’s director of politics, defense and security cooperation.
The meeting comes after the Congo’s national army (FARDC) recaptured the country’s eastern town of Bunagana, one of the last remaining strongholds of the M23 rebels. The conflict has displaced thousands of civilians.
The U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) says up to 10,000 civilians are seeking shelter in Uganda.
The DRC is politically affiliated to both the ICGLR and the SADC.
Mothae is hopeful leaders in the two regional blocs will find a lasting solution to the security crisis in the DRC.
“The two regions have always [worked] very closely together to address the security situation in the two regions, and things are moving very positively in that at least there is an understanding, that there is a need for the eastern Congo to have peace,” said Mothae. “We hope that when our principals finish this meeting, there would be a very clear direction as to what will [and] has been done.”
“That is the time that the people in that region should listen to the message that is going to come out of this meeting,” said Mothae.
He said both SADC and the ICGLR want to reassure Congolese affected by the conflicts that regional leaders are determined to end the insecurity in their country.
“We want to see a Congo which is peaceful and focusing on economic development and [uplifting] of the social wellbeing of the citizens of the eastern DRC,” said Mothae. “SADC has always been committed to work with all partners in ensuring that there is peace and security in eastern Congo.”
The heads of state and government meeting was preceded by a foreign ministers meeting that looked at the agenda and the modalities of the summit on Monday.
Clottey interview with Lt. Col. (rtd) Tanki Mothae SADC senior official