The Democratic Republic of Congo’s President Felix Tshisekedi has been handed the mandate to take over the Southern African Development Community (SADC) button from the outgoing Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera, the head of State for the Republic of Malawi. The Congolese Head of State doubles as the current president of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).
In this regional political bloc’s 42nd Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government which commenced on the 17 August 2022, Félix Tshisekedi has taken the helm of the Southern African. Joo Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço, the president of the Republic of Angola, has been chosen to serve as the SADC’s next chairman.
In other positions, Hakainde Hichilema, the President of the Republic of Zambia, was chosen as the new chairperson of the Organ on Politics, Defence, and Security Cooperation replacing South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, while Dr. Hage G. Geingob, President of the Republic of Namibia is the organ’s outgoing chairperson.
During the summit, Southern African leaders exchanged notes on how to foster a sense of unity and Pan-Africanism coupled with resilience against neo-colonial pressures. The outgoing SADC Chairman called upon member countries to be independent of external influence especially the Democratic Republic of Kenya. President Chakwera also applauded Zambia for holding peaceful polls and for her subsequent smooth transfer of power from former President Edgar Lungu.
"The plunder that we have allowed the West to conduct in the DRC is a sin we must repent on, resolve and refuse to see repeated anywhere else in our region," charged Lazarus Chakweera, the president of Malawi. The outspoken leader also exhorted is fellow comrades to stay on guard against extractivism and plunder of the region’s natural resources by the West, Europe and Asia.
Mr Chakwera also eloquently clarified that “Africa is open for business and not for sale”, a sentiment that has long been emphasized by founding members of the bloc such as Zimbabwe’s former President, the late Robert Gabriel Mugabe and Angola’s first executive president Agostinho Antonio Neto.
Outside SADC, other regional nationalist African Union founding fathers such as Guinea’s Ahmed Sekou Touré, Ethiopia’s Haile Selasse and Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah (all late) were also motivated by this strong idea when they formed the all-encompassing continental bloc.
At the same ceremony, the late Presidents Samora Machel (Mozambique), Kenneth Kaunda (Zambia), Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe), Julius Nyerere (Tanzania), Sir Seretse Khama (Botswana), Kings Sobhuza II and Moshoeshoe II, (Kingdom of Eswatini and the Kingdom of Lesotho), respectively, all represented by their families. The move was symbolic of Africa’s step towards ensuring that the legacy of some of its influential leaders is honored.
The Kinshasa Summit is hosting a dozen SADC Heads of State and will review progress in regional integration in line with SADC aspirations "which envision an industrialized, peaceful, inclusive, competitive, middle to a high-income region where all citizens enjoy sustainable economic well-being”.
In his acceptance speech, President Tshisekedi pledged unwavering commitment towards implementing positive progression of the bloc’s pending and ongoing projects. "I would be active in implementing programs to develop infrastructure and services in the region that is directly linked to our main strategies to stimulate economic integration and eradicate poverty in the SADC region," said Félix Tshisekedi.
It is highly likely that the question of the Rwandan presence on Congolese soil will also be raised, knowing that it is Angola (in the name of the CIRGL and the African Union), also a member of SADC, which is leading part of the negotiation between Kinshasa and Kigali.
It stands to be seen whether progressive ideas towards attaining a peaceful resolution will come out of this historical summit.