"Implementing Peace and Security Architecture (II): Southern Africa", crisisgroup

Africa Report N°191 15 Oct 2012

Executive Summary

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The last part of Africa to be decolonised, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, remains one of the most peaceful. Yet, despite comprehensive protocols and agreements, SADC faces acute challenges characterised by tensions between member states, resource deficits, citizens’ exclusion, social discontent and limited internal and external coordination. Regional security cooperation requires adept infrastructures underwritten by political commitment; but the organisation’s Secretariat appears powerless to ensure policy implementation. It must develop an effective common security policy framework, improve coordination with international partners, harmonise and clarify its role with other SADC structures, broaden engagement with civil society, ensure member-state commitment to African Union (AU) efforts on human and people’s rights and build capacity for evaluation and monitoring. As long as national sovereignty prevails over regional interests, however, the success of SADC mechanisms, notably in conflict resolution, will remain limited.

The region faces a range of evolving peace and security threats, including maritime security and piracy, cyber and technology-driven security threats, and socio-economic unrest. Beyond efforts to respond to these challenges, policy implementation capacity and information and response mechanisms are urgently required. SADC’s intervention in Madagascar and Zimbabwe has exposed the region’s limited capacity to enforce agreements it has brokered. Ad hoc and under-resourced mediation imposes additional burdens and responsibilities on the mediators. Civil society engagement in SADC processes in the two countries has been at best tangential, confirming the gulf between the regional body and its citizens. The Madagascar and Zimbabwe cases also highlight that structural governance deficits and politicised security sectors exacerbate conflict. SADC’s mediation efforts reveal the complexities and challenges of dealing with unconstitutional changes in government, contested elections and violations of the region’s electoral code.

A fragmented approach to crisis and the absence of a common policy hinder security cooperation. Member states pursue detached objectives without a consistent set of principles and policies in this area coordinated at the regional level. This reinforces their reluctance to cede authority to a SADC centralised structure. Regional commitment to the rule of law suffered from the decision of the SADC heads of state and government to confine the jurisdiction of its tribunal to interpretations of treaties and protocols relating to disputes between member states. The decision removes the right to individual petition, and without an alternate explanation from SADC’s leadership, can be considered a reversal of previous gains in human security and people’s rights.

SADC is keen to establish a mediation unit led by “elders” appointed by consensus between member states and supported by a credible and efficient resource team. Though the framework and operational methodology were approved in 2010, the organisation is yet to implement it. Regional conflict resolution efforts must incorporate military diplomacy options to address growing security sector influence in conflicts and their potential resolution. The establishment of national committees in each member state will buttress civil society participation in SADC policy formulation and implementation, as mandated by the treaty.

A culture of political solidarity among member states remains, fostered by a common liberation struggle history and a stated commitment to non-interference in the internal politics of others. This has inhibited effective preventive diplomacy and provided justification for non-engagement in cases of potential conflict and security threats. Despite the establishment of an early warning system in 2010, it is not clear if and how SADC utilises the conflict signals arising in the region and how best this infrastructure could be enhanced. Decision-making is consensual and rests solely with the heads of state and government and ministerial committees. The secretariat is expected to function as SADC’s implementing arm, but lacks capacity and the authority to enforce decisions and is not empowered to engage in independent diplomatic action to address conflict situations.

The SADC Standby Force has demonstrated its readiness for deployment, successfully conducting joint exercises, though it needs further strengthening to expand its humanitarian and disaster management roles. It has not fully incorporated a civilian component, which is necessary to provide for human security as specified by the AU. SADC has no post-conflict reconstruction program or security sector reform policy framework to underpin sustainable peace. This reflects the prominence of bilateral over multilateral security cooperation, as well as varying geopolitical interests, the exclusive alliance of countries with liberation struggle history, and sensitivities regarding possible hegemonic domination. South Africa’s role and potential in this regard are particularly pertinent, as are its relations with Angola, the second most influential SADC member.

Foreign partnerships around peace and security are disjointed and are not tied to a coherent strategy to build infrastructure and capacity. This manifests in the misapplication of resources and competing interests among SADC’s international cooperating partners (ICPs). The organisation should support the implementation of the regional coordination platform for international partners, and consider how best to broaden engagement beyond traditional donors and partners.

The inter-governmental status of SADC limits the enforcement and monitoring of member states’ compliance to its peace and security framework. Although political solidarity exists, relations between some of the regional leaders are fragile, even fraught, which has negatively affected sustainable regional security cooperation. However, compared to other challenges on the continent, Southern Africa is regarded as relatively peaceful. This affords it an important opportunity to build and consolidate its peace and security capacity.


To strengthen SADC conflict resolution structures

To Member States:

1.  Establish the election support unit at the Secretariat to coordinate and support the work of the SADC Election Advisory Council and other election-related activities.

2.  Address effectively the problem created by the withdrawal of the human and people’s rights mandate from the tribunal so as to provide citizens with appropriate remedial options when states fail to uphold their rights.

3.  Broaden the regional early warning system (REWS) by establishing national centres and involving civil society, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and academia.

4.  Set up and operationalise the mediation unit with a properly resourced panel of elders, reference group and support unit.

5.  Build cohesion and competency of the Standby Force by conducting more regular joint exercises, securing adequate resources and expanding its role in humanitarian and disaster management programs.

To expand and strengthen SADC’s policy framework

To Member States:

6.  Develop and implement a common security policy to align national security institutions towards a common system.

7.  Ensure the Standby Force has standard operating procedures and contingents for deployment in complex peacekeeping missions and situations of genocide, in accordance with objectives defined by the African Union (AU) and other regional organisations.

8.  Make public the revised strategic indicative plan for the organ (SIPO II) for use as a broad guideline for the peace and security approach.

To Civil Society:

9.  Develop and strengthen regional advocacy programs on the human and people’s rights mandate that has been withdrawn from the tribunal and without which citizens have no remedial option when states fail to uphold their rights.

To improve internal coordination and efficiency

To Member States:

10.  Integrate and clarify the role of the committee of defence chiefs in supporting political and diplomatic efforts in conflict resolution, especially in situations where security sector engagement is required to promote sustainable solutions.

11.  Establish a common foreign policy guideline for the regional bloc to promote collective continental and global engagement.

To broaden regional participation in peace and security

To Member States:

12.  Establish national committees as the platform for civil society groups, including trade unions, private sector and faith-based communities to participate in SADC processes.

13.  Integrate the Parliamentary Forum into the head of state summit and Council of Ministers in order to broaden citizen participation through their parliamentary representatives.

14.  Operationalise the memorandum of understanding signed by the Secretariat with the SADC-Council of NGOs by extending it to peace and security joint consultations and programs.

15.  Establish the civilian component of the Standby Force by extending civilian involvement beyond civil servants from member states.

To Civil Society:

16.  Develop regional advocacy programs for the establishment of the national committees in each member state.

To increase effectiveness of international cooperation

To Member States:

17.  Align the Mutual Defence Pact’s provisions on military intervention with Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

18.  Commit to strengthening the international cooperating partners’ (ICPs) thematic group on peace and security by finalising fund management systems and enhancing capacity for implementation, monitoring and evaluation, prioritisation and documentation of projects.

19.  Develop a “China policy” to guide regional engagement in anticipation of Chinese growing presence and interests in the region.

To the Secretariat:

20.  Strengthen the capacity of the liaison office at the AU to promote constant engagement and harmonisation of roles.

To International Partners:

21.  Coordinate partnership efforts through the international cooperating partners thematic group and commit to building the AU-SADC peace and security collaboration, taking advantage of the election of the SADC-supported candidate as AU chair in July 2012.

Johannesburg/Brussels, 15 October 2012