If so, SADC would be omitting many concerns that Zimbabwean democrats still have.
These include the military’s role in elections, the independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, the impartiality of the public broadcaster, undemocratic legislation that gives undue powers to security agencies and unduly restricting journalists.
Apart from Lesotho, the Luanda summit focused on the DRC and Madagascar where threats to democracy have provoked violence and jeopardised stability.
The DRC has been on SADC’s worry list for some time for that reason.
President Joseph Kabila was supposed to stand down in November 2016 after his constitutionally limited two terms ended. But he didn’t, citing technical delays in holding new elections.
That has provoked several deadly protests. Late last year the country’s electoral commission announced that elections would be held on 23 December this year. But Kabila still hasn’t announced that he won’t run again, which is further fuelling tensions, potential violence and instability.
Yet SADC can’t bring itself to tell him to go spend more time with his family, even politely.
SADC failed again to put the squeeze on Kabila at Tuesday’s Luanda summit which Kabila also attended.
Instead South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, also current SADC chairperson, said he and his peers were “heartened” by Kabila’s assurances that the DRC was going “full speed” towards elections.
“Now that they have made so much progress and will continue to make progress, it is no longer necessary to have a special envoy because they are going to consolidate the progress that they have made.”
So SADC cancelled the mission of former Namibian president Hifikepunye Pohamba, who had originally been appointed as special envoy.
Stephanie Wolters, head of the Peace and Security Research Programme at the Institute for Security Studies, is far from sharing SADC’s confidence that free and fair elections are on track.
“The political environment in the DRC is anything but conducive to free and fair elections, with bans on political marches still in place, and opposition figures and civil society activists still being hounded by the government,” she says.
Wolters says it would have been “useful if SADC had stated clearly that all human rights abuses must stop, that the security forces should not attack Congolese citizens wanting to express their political opinions, that political prisoners should be freed, and that the ban on political marches should be lifted immediately”.
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