SADC slams Rwanda for DRC ‘interference’

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) resolved to send a mission to Rwanda as it wrapped up a two-day annual summit in Maputo, Mozambique.

"[The] summit noted with great concern that the security situation in the eastern part of DRC has deteriorated in the last three months causing displacement of people, loss of lives and property," said executive secretary Tomaz Salomão.

"This is being perpetrated by rebel groups with the assistance of Rwanda," he said, adding that the summit "urged the latter to cease immediately its interference that constitutes a threat to peace and stability not only to the DRC but also to the SADC region".

A quarter of a million people have fled the eastern DRC since April when the rebel movement M23 took up arms against government troops.

Reading the bloc's final communiqué, Salomão highlighted the group that Rwanda President Paul Kagame was accused of supporting with arms and ammunition in a June United Nations report which prompted several countries to suspend aid.

"Summit mandated a mission to Rwanda to urge them to stop support for the M23," he said.

Sticking points in Madagascar, Zimbabwe

The strong tone on the DRC, part of the 15-member bloc, did not extend to the region's perennial sticking points of Madagascar and Zimbabwe.

Madagascar's feuding leaders were urged to put a SADC-backed road map ahead of a vote meant to end a stand-off since former leader Marc Ravalomanana was ousted in 2009.

"We are here to find a solution to the crisis, above all a lasting solution for peace and stability in Madagascar," said the island's transitional leader Andry Rajoelina on the sidelines of the summit.

The question of Ravolomanana's return from exile in South Africa has been the main stumbling block to the holding of elections to end the three-year crisis on Africa's largest island.

Ravalomanana was sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment over the killing of 36 protesters during unrest in 2009, and currently faces life in prison with hard labour if he returns.

"Regarding the return of the former president, because this is blocking a resolution on the Madagascar crisis, it has been concluded that the former president will not return immediately … it has been decided that this return must be devised and regulated with the relevant authorities.

"The assessment should take place within 30 to 60 days," he added.

SADC is adamant that the former leader must be allowed to return home.

"Regarding the return of Marc Ravalomanana, the position of SADC is the return is unconditional. We cannot prescribe whether he has to stand or not. First he has to return," said Salomão.

On Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai were urged to put in place their roadmap for a new constitution ahead of a vote to end the shaky power-sharing deal forced by 2008 violent polls chaos.

They were also told to call for mediation if any "difficulties with regards to the constitution and implementation of agreements".

Further delays are imminent after Mugabe announced this week that his party had changed parts of a long delayed draft constitution.

"We are very happy. As soon as we get home we will be working with the facilitator, and we do hope we can improve that work on the new constitution soon and there will be a referendum before we have fresh elections," he said on Saturday.

The draft constitution would rein in presidential powers and bolster those of Parliament, set a presidential term limit of 10 years and strip away the president's immunity from prosecution after leaving office. – AFP

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