Joyce Banda to lead push for lasting solution in DRC conflict

Malawi President Joyce Banda will on  Monday 4 November, 2013, attend the Joint Southern Africa Development Community/International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (SADC/ICGLR) Summit, in Pretoria which will discuss the on-going humanitarian and security crisis in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). 

The leaders will work to find common political and diplomatic solutions to a situation that threatens the stability of the southern and great lakes region of the continent.

Regional and international observers have been alarmed by the recent escalation of fighting between the army and M23 rebels in the eastern region of the DRC.  Galvanised by the prospect of a spill over into neighbouring countries, regional actors have stepped up efforts to find a lasting solution to the long-running conflict.

President Banda calls for action

As Chairperson of SADC, President Banda will call on the conflicting parties to return to the negotiating table and avoid further escalation of fighting, for the sake of the DRC, and the continent as a whole.

Says Banda:  ”Without peace in the DRC, there will be no prosperity in the SADC region, there will be no prosperity in the Great Lakes region.  There will be no prosperity in Africa”.

The proposal to bring the two regional bodies together arose during the 2013 SADC Heads of State and Government Summit, held in Lilongwe in August.

Given the DRC’s membership of both bodies, SADC leaders proposed that SADC and ICGLR should work together to find a solution.  ICGLR accepted the proposal during an Extraordinary Summit, held in Kampala the following month.

President Banda is committed to finding a solution to the conflict that has led to the death and displacement of thousands.

During the United Nations General Assembly, President Banda and President Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia (Chairman of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation) met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon to request the United Nations assistance to bring the opposing sides in the conflict together and to push for the withdrawal of Rwandan troops deployed along the border with the DRC.

President Banda has also used her platform as an International Champion for the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative to highlight the plight of women and girls caught up in the conflict.

The recent deployment of a batallion of 850 troops to support the UN-mandated (UNSC Resolution 2098) peace enforcement mission in the DRC further demonstrates Malawi’s commitment to supporting the restoration of peace and civilian control in the volatile Eastern part of the Congo.

The conflict in the eastern provinces of the DRC has been on-going for more than two decades.  An estimated 2.6 million are internally displaced and more than 460,000 have fled to neighbouring countries, including Malawi.

Increasingly, regional dynamics have also contributed to instability that extends beyond the DRC’s borders.

Other contributing countries, besides Malawi, are Tanzania and South Africa.

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