August 22, 2003

SADC states to sign defence pact

Southern African Development Community (SADC) heads of state will sign a mutual defence pact during an annual summit in Tanzania next week. Such a pact would make it easier under the South African constitution for its army to rush to the aid of an SADC country under external or internal attack. In addition, the pact will help lay the basis for the creation of a SADC brigade as part of the proposed African standby force.

Leaders will also discuss the deteriorating situation in Swaziland, Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad said in Pretoria yesterday. And if progress is made in the Burundi power sharing deal being brokered by Deputy President Jacob Zuma in SA this week, there could be a signing ceremony during the summit.

At a meeting in Maputo earlier this month, SADC foreign ministers deflected pressure on Zimbabwe, calling for sanctions to be lifted. Despite the lack of success of SADC in resolving the standoff in Harare so far, no form of quiet diplomacy is likely at the Dar-es-Salaam meeting.

It remains uncertain whether the 14 heads of state will approve the final draft of SADC's plans for integration in its Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan. The plan specifies detailed measures and responsibilities for achieving the goals of the regional body that include free trade , improving food availability , secure energy supplies and marketing tourism in the region .

Largely due to Pretoria's efforts, the SADC defence pact is not as binding as that of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, as it does not view an attack on one as an attack on all. Article 6 of an early draft, supported by Zimbabwe, called on states to immediately respond in the event of an attack on a fellow SADC member country. Pahad says the latest version says that states , "can respond according to their possibilities". If "there is an external aggression then the whole process would be set into motion by which SADC will then take a decision whether the aggression warrants a collective intervention ", Pahad said.

Jakkie Cilliers, executive director of the Institute for Security Studies, says that the treaty would make South African military intervention under SADC auspices legally valid in terms of the constitution. The need for legality of military intervention in the region was underscored by SA's 1998 incursion into Lesotho under the auspices of the SADC. However, as the constitution requires that SA have a legal obligation for a military intervention, Cilliers says there is strong argument that the Lesotho intervention violated the constitution.

The original demand for a SADC defence pact came from Zimbabwe after its intervention in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1998 in support of the government of Laurent Kabila. SA questioned whether this had a mandate from SADC, but later SA found itself in need of SADC support for intervention in Lesotho.

Meanwhile, Tanzanian deputy minister for foreign affairs and international co-operation, Dr Abdulkader Shareef, has confirmed that Tanzania will continue to be a member of both the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the East African Community (EAC).

Shareef was responding to a question by Business Times which was prompted by a suggestion attributed to the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation to the effect that the East African countries should pull out of other regional blocs so as to be more effective within the EAC.

The Foundation reportedly urged Dar es Salaam to pull out of SADC within the next five years while, for their part, Nairobi and Kampala should exit the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa). The three EAC member states should then reconstitute themselves into a political federation which would also encompass Burundi, Rwanda and DRC. Responding, Shareef said "dual membership is not a problem," adding that "it should not be seen to be so - as long as there are no contradictions of principles, aims or objectives within the organisations involved. The minister noted that Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda could maintain their membership in other economic blocs - and still form a strong EAC. "The force behind success of any economic bloc is political will," Shareef insisted. (Business Day, Johannesburg / Business Times, Dar es Salaam)

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