Editor's Comment

Zambia well-placed for SADC role

PRESIDENT Lungu (centre) confers with his Zimbabwe counterpart Emmerson Mnangagwa (right) and Zambia’s Minister of Home Affairs Stephen Kampyongo on the sidelines of the SADC Heads of State Summit in Windhoek yesterday. PICTURE: EDDIE MWANALEZA/STATE HOUSE

HISTORICALLY, Zambia has been among few trendsetters in conducting free, fair and credible elections.
Zambia also has a unique record of smooth handover of power from one government to another. This has been so since 1991 when the country returned to multi-party democracy.
This background gives Zambia well-earned sound credentials and commands international respect.
The Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) faith in Zambia helping the Democratic Republic of Congo manage its upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections is therefore well-placed.
After all, Zambia has participated in facilitating talks in Angola between the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA).
Zambia was a prominent member of the Frontline States – a coalition of African countries from the 1960s to the early 1990s committed to ending apartheid and white minority rule in South Africa and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).
Zambia was at the heart of the liberation struggle in Angola, Mozambique, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) Namibia and South Africa.
Zambia is playing its part in achieving and maintaining peace in the Great Lakes region.
Now as chair of the SADC Organ on Politics Defence and Security, Zambia has been tasked to address the security situation in the DRC before, during and after the elections.
The SADC Troika which Zambia is heading is responsible for promoting peace and security in the SADC region. It is mandated to steer and provide member states with direction on matters that threaten peace, security and stability in the region.
Peace is critical in the DRC because it is a country endowed with vast natural resources.
The DRC has a gross domestic product of US$68 billion. If peace is sustained, the DRC could become the economic powerhouse of the continent and possibly surpass Nigeria, a US$357 billion economy, and South Africa, whose economy is US$326 billion.
There is no single cause of conflict in the DR Congo. The conflict there is a complex web of inter-connected needs, interests, and grievances that exist not only domestically in Congo, but also externally.
Some countries have historically been involved in influencing Congolese politics, economics, and national security to protect their own perceived interests.
For a country that has nine neighbouring countries, interest in the happenings in the DRC is understandably high.
As African Union chairman Paul Kagame has said, instability in the DRC could trigger an overflow of refugees to the neighbouring countries.
Already, some of these neighbouring countries, including Zambia, host thousands of refugees. Any further influx could have an even more serious effect on these countries as they are not getting enough external support to meet the needs of the refugees.
On the flipside, a peaceful DRC would increase trade between this mineral-rich country and its neighbours and other markets.
Already, Zambia and the DRC enjoy good trade ties but this could significantly improve with sustained peace and stability.
President Edgar Lungu evidently has a huge task but he surely must be up to the challenge, of course with the support of his counterparts in the region and the rest of the continent.
The ultimate solution, however, lies within the boundaries of this vast country. The people of the DRC themselves have the answer to their challenges.
Zambia can and will gladly point them to this solution but the onus is on them to take those steps to live side by side as brothers and sisters in diversity.

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