The just concluded 33rd Summit of Southern African Development Community (SADC) Heads of State noted the region has been “generally peaceful and stable”.
In an official communique issued after the two-day meeting in Lilongwe, Malawi, it also welcomed the deployment of the SADC intervention brigade in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to contain the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in particularly the eastern part of that country.
“[The] Summit commended the signing of the Peace, Security and Co-operation Framework for the DRC and the Region in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on February 24, 2013 and the adoption of by the UN Security Council of Resolution 2098 of 2013 which provides the mandate for the deployment of the Intervention Brigade in eastern DRC under the auspices of MONUSCO.
“[The] Summit commended the Kampala Talks between the Government of the DRC and M23 and noted the talks have become protracted and that, at some point, a reasonable deadline should be considered,” the communique said.
Other peace and security issues discussed by the 14 heads of state who attended included an urgent joint SADC Summit and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and the establishment of a special electoral court in Madagascar.
According to the Global Peace Index (GPI), sub-Saharan Africa and the SADC region is more peaceful than commonly perceived, although levels of violence remain high in North Africa due to the continued fallout from the Arab Spring.
In sub-Saharan Africa, Mauritius, Botswana and Namibia ranked the top three most peaceful countries, with Somalia being at the bottom of the list, followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic. South Africa ranked 28 out of 44 sub-Saharan countries.
“The perception of Sub-Saharan Africa as a locus of economic underperformance and political instability is increasingly out-of-date, as underscored by the 2013 results of the GPI,” the report, released in June, said.
“Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole this year ranks above the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, and Russia and Eurasia in terms of peacefulness. In part, this reflects rising economic prosperity—Sub-Saharan economic growth has outstripped that of every other region in the world over the past two years—and, ironically, the region’s traditional marginalisation from the global economy has helped insulate it from the impact of the global financial crisis.”
The report cautioned that risks to peace can arise when the benefits of rapid national growth are not shared. “For example, the deterioration in Burkina Faso’s ranking is underscored by a rise in the likelihood of violent demonstrations, homicide rates and violent crime. Public anger over the high cost of living and the inadequacy of state services, notwithstanding strong overall economic growth, has already led to a wave of violent protests and strikes, and the potential for further unrest remains high.”
The report found Burkina Faso in 2012 to be the nation with the largest positive peace deficit. “Frustration with the inequitable division of spoils can also lead to an upsurge in violent crime, or perceptions thereof, as is apparent in the Central African Republic (CAR), Gambia, Mozambique, Niger, Tanzania and Togo.”
The Institute for Economics & Peace in its report saw the longevity of African leaders as a danger sign regarding peace and security. “Longstanding leaders are often accompanied by a marginalisation of opposition parties; deprived of the opportunity to change leadership via the ballot box, populations will turn instead to more violent means, as has been the case in the CAR (the military coup in Mali was an exception, being a reflection of military dissatisfaction with the conduct of an anti-insurgency campaign). While the eventual overthrow of the CAR’s president will be reflected in next year’s rankings, the preceding violence and instability contributed to the country’s ranking of 42nd out of 45 regional states.”
The GPI singled out several sub-Saharan nations as affected by conflict: “Cote d’Ivoire’s 2013 ranking was hit by a surge in violence in the second half of 2012, with a series of attacks in the south of the country blamed by the government on forces loyal to the former president, Laurent Gbagbo.
“The Democratic Republic of the Congo continues to be affected by armed conflict in the eastern provinces of the country, which in turn is driven by extensive population displacement over decades, as well as a lack of central government control, competition over control of the region’s vast natural resources and tensions between various communities and ethnic groups.
“Sudan’s low ranking is a reflection of the long-standing tensions that led to the secession of South Sudan in July 2011. This did not resolve issues in the states bordering what is now South Sudan, while Somalia has not truly recovered from its descent into civil conflict in the early 1990s,” the report reads.