The Importance Of SADC’s Political And Military Interventionism

“Unfortunately there were a number of casualties amongst people that our family knows, which has been difficult for the kids. A girl in our son’s class that also rides the kids’ school bus was wounded, and her father was killed.


“A student a year younger than our son was wounded and his mother was killed. A student that the kids know from a different school was shot and severely wounded, and his mother and a sibling were unaccounted for as of the last time we received news.


“The mother of a girl on our son’s swim team was killed. There were quite a number of girls from our son’s grade that were in the mall for a surprise birthday party. Two of them were held hostage but somehow got out. None of the others were held or injured.”


This is one witness account of the 2013 Kenya Mall attacks that were committed by suspected Al-Shabab militants on unsuspecting civilians. Later, investigators described the mall attack scene. Their report read:


“The al-Shabab terrorists who seized a Kenyan shopping mall for four days tortured, maimed and mutilated some of their 67 victims, leaving a tattered scene of ghoulish, gruesome remains that investigators likened to scenes from a horror movie.


“Hostages were left hanging and had their eyes gouged, others were dismembered. Others had their throats slashed or were castrated and had fingers amputated, according to media reports quoting soldiers, medical personnel and investigators sorting through the rubble of the collapsed mall.”


These sad stories serve to remind us all of the priceless of piece of mind that we enjoy particularly in Zimbabwe and generally in our SADC region. While some people are of opinion that the placid persona of Southern Africans is the primary reason for our relative tranquility, I must reiterate that the SADC politics, defense and security framework to date has contributed to relative regional stability.


Someone may ask: what has SADC achieved in the areas of politics, defense and security in recent times? Here are some examples:


Democratic Republic of Congo


M23 rebel fighters (who were largely responsible for widespread war crimes in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) including summary executions, rapes, and the forced recruitment of children) were in 2013 successfully defeated by forces consisting of SADC troops.



In the words of Zimbabwe’s foreign affairs minister, Simbarashe Mbembegwi “the armed forces of the DRC assisted by the SADC Intervention Brigade were able to subdue the M23, the FDLR and the other negative forces in the region.”




Following the Madagascar coup, SADC intervened as a political mediator. The regional body suspended Madagascar’s membership, and explicitly supported ousted president Ravalomanana as the elected, constitutional head of state. The then executive secretary of SADC, Tomaz Salomão, called on Rajoelina to vacate the office of the president as a matter of urgency and this paved the way for the unconditional reinstatement of President Ravalomanana. Furthermore, SADC threatened sanctions and even discussed, albeit quietly, a potential military intervention by its standby brigade, SADCBRIG.


Ultimately, after mediation efforts to ensure constitutional order returned to Madagascar, the SADC suspension of Madagascar was lifted. International reports noted this as “a victory for the SADC’s much-maligned “quiet diplomacy”.


In 2008 Zimbabwe was submerged in a crisis characterized by economic meltdown, and disputed elections. Faced with internal instability and international isolation, it was SADC’s mediation in Zimbabwe that brought about the Global Political Agreement (GPA). The GPA returned the country to normalcy and gave birth to a new Zimbabwean constitution prior to the July 2013 elections.


Analysts have observed that “SADC’s involvement in Zimbabwe… [was] to support institutional and constitutional reform, prepare ground for credible elections and continue policing the political developments.” Arguably, SADC’s mediation mandate in Zimbabwe was achieved, and Zimbabwe was struck off the SADC crisis agenda in August 2013.


The aforementioned examples perhaps demonstrate the importance of SADC’s regional intervention in political and military matters. It is in the light of an increasingly worrying global trend of terrorism and radicalism on the part of extremist groups that are willing to use unjust, unconstitutional and violent means to achieve their ends that SADC state should seek to reaffirm their cooperation in terms of political interventionism and regional security.

Tau Tawengwa

Executive Director

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SADC: The Organ for Politics, Defense and Security


The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is an inter-governmental organization that aims to further socio-economic cooperation and integration as well as political and security cooperation among fifteen Southern African states. The regional bloc has its headquarters in Gaborone, Botswana. It complements the role of the African Union.

The SADC Organ for Politics, Defense and Security was launched in June 1996 as a formal institution of SADC with a mandate to support the achievement and maintenance of security and the rule of law in the SADC region. The SADC Treaty and the Strategic Indicative Plan for the Organ (SIPO II) are the key documents that guide the activities of the Organ.

The Organ affirms cooperation between SADC states in the areas of Defense, Crime Prevention, Intelligence, Peacekeeping, Conflict Management and Human Rights. Furthermore, “the Organ is mandated to deal with inter and intra-state conflicts and can use means such as preventative diplomacy, negotiations, conciliation, mediation, arbitration and as a means of last resort – force.”

Regional Conflicts in Africa

Article 53.1 of Chapter VIII of the United Nations (UN) Security Charter reads, “The Security Council shall, where appropriate, utilize such regional arrangements or agencies for enforcement actions under its authorities.”

Article 52.2 of the same charter articulates that regional conflicts and disputes should be initially undertaken by regional UN members, and that these members “shall make every effort to achieve pacific settlements of local disputes through such regional arrangements or by such regional agencies before referring them to the Security Council.”

Simply put, when a conflict arises in a region, before the UN intervenes, it looks to the relevant regional body to resolve the matter, and where there is no regional bloc, it looks to UN members within that region.

Now, regrettably, in recent times various regions in Africa have relapsed into conflict zones. Several of these conflicts have resulted in the direct intervention of foreign forces.

France, for instance, has 1,700 troops in Mali (a former French colony) and intends to send more troops into Mali, Chad and Niger as part of a regional ‘counter-terrorism’ operation. This is in spite of the existence of the regional body in the form of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Apart from Mali, there are ongoing conflicts in the Central African Republic, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Closer to home, the resurgence of the RENAMO threat in Mozambique remains a matter of concern.

In light of a currently dark and concurrently conflicted continent, it is important that SADC should strive to strengthen its security synergy.

Remembering that the theme for this year’s SADC summit is “SADC Strategy for Economic Transformation: Leveraging the Region’s Diverse Resources for Sustainable Economic and Social Development” it is key to note that there can be no sustainable economic development where conflict persists. It is therefore essential to strengthen SADC’s main mechanism for conflict resolution:

The Strategic Indicative Plan for the Organ on Politics, Defense and Security Co-operation (SIPO II)

The Strategic Indicative Plan for the Organ on Politics, Defense and Security Co-operation (SIPO II) is a five-year strategic document that establishes SADC`s institutional framework for policy coordination and implementation in politics, defense and security. It was initially developed in 2003, and modified at a SADC summit in 2012.

Since 2004, SIPO II achieved the following:
•The facilitation of defense and security cooperation among SADC countries
•A commitment towards collective self-defense via the SADC Mutual Defense Pact
•The launch and operationalisation of the SADC Standby Force
•The promotion of regional police cooperation to enhance the fight against organized crime and cross-border illegal activities, through the integration of the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Cooperation Organization into the Inter-State Defense and Security Committee
•The establishment of the Regional Early Warning Centre, tasked with the anticipation, prevention and management of conflicts
•The establishment of the SADC Electoral Advisory Council and the Mediation unit, tasked with dealing with the political governance and the observation of elections.

However, some researchers in the region have critiqued SIPO II and labeled it an under-funded and legally non-binding document that is rich in rhetoric.

Yet, when one looks at the current conflicts around Africa, especially in the ECOWAS region, and at how those nation states have had to rely on foreign troops to resolve military threats, one arguably sees the benefit of SADC’s defense cooperation. Presently, SADC is arguably Africa’s most peaceful regional bloc.

For example, Nigeria recently overtook South Africa as Africa’s economic leader. However, it was unfortunate to observe that when Boko Haram abducted 234 schoolgirls from the state of Borno, a member of Nigeria’s House of Representatives’ committee on defense, Eziuche Uban, immediately pronounced, “Nigeria should seek international help,” because “the Nigerian armed forces are not in a position to defeat the insurgency in the northeast.” One wonders why ECOWAS could not help.

Ultimately, while it is true that the SADC region needs to focus on its economic development, the tragic mall bombings in East Africa and the schoolgirl abductions in West Africa bring to light the need to augment our regional security cooperation and integration at the August 2014 SADC summit.

Tau Tawengwa
Executive Director


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