August 19, 2004

Botswana to host next SADC summit

Botswana will host the next Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit in 2005. President Festus Mogae, who was elected as deputy chairman of SADC, will be the host. At the just ended two-day annual summit, regional leaders discussed issues such as regional integration, poverty reduction, food security and HIV/AIDS control. Speaking at the end of the summit, newly-elected SADC chairman Paul Berenger warned that there is still a tough challenge that the regional bloc must face. "Our challenge is to provide agricultural inputs, such as seeds, fertilisers and farming implements to our small farmers. We also have to provide them with access to markets for their produce," said Berenger, who is also prime minister of Mauritius, host country of the bloc's annual summit. "Our region is prone to drought, floods and cyclones, which have adversely affected food production in the region," Berenger said, adding "we need to establish a functional Regional Food Security Information System."

Leaders attending the summit approved a new regional charter on free and fair elections that specifies how they should be conducted to guarantee democracy. The summit commended the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Joseph Kabila, for his efforts aimed at bringing the ongoing peace process to a successful conclusion, and condemned the recent foiled coup attempt in Kinshasa on June 10. The summit reaffirmed that SADC will not tolerate any unconstitutional change of governments in the region. During the summit, Indian Ocean island, Madagascar, was accepted into the fold, which brings back the number of SADC member states to 14, but the decision to upgrade its membership will only take effect next year. (Mmegi/The Reporter, Gaborone)

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