Archive: SADC Mutual Defence Pact creates new defence market

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In case of emergency, hold talk shop. That’s the executive summary of the
recently adopted Southern African Development Community (SADC) Mutual
Defence Pact.
SADC Mutual Defence Pact creates new defence market
September 23, 2003
In case of emergency, hold talk shop. That’s the executive summary of the
recently adopted Southern African Development Community (SADC) Mutual
Defence Pact. The belated signing of the long-anticipated pact creates a
series of international obligations binding the states to each other.
Sensible, even progressive in some ways, it is reactionary and out-of-
step with history in others.
The pact, in the works since the SADC’s 1996 Gaborone Summit, is meant to
give effect to the organisation’s Protocol on Politics, Defence and
Security Co-operation. The conclusion of the pact was reportedly long
held up by a dispute over the wording of the pact. Article 5 of the North
Atlantic Treaty, the document underlying the North Atlantic Treaty
Organisation (NATO), states that an armed attack against one or more of
the parties “shall be considered an attack against them all and
consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of
them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence
recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will
assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually
and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary,
including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of
the North Atlantic area.” In addition, any “such armed attack and all
measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the
Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security
Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain
international peace and security.”
Several SADC members apparently argued that similar wording in the
regional pact would be too prescriptive and could result in democratic
states propping up autocracies, particularly those who had brought their
troubles upon themselves. As such compromise language was adopted.
Article 6 of the August 2002 draft considered at the Maputo Summit read
as follows: “1. An armed attack against a State Party shall be considered
a threat to regional peace and security and such an attack shall be met
with immediate collective action by State Parties. 2. Collective action
shall be mandated by the (SADC) Summit on the recommendation of the Organ
(on Politics, Defence and Security). 3. Any such armed attack, and
measures taken in response thereto, shall immediately be reported to the
Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AU) and the Security
Council of the United Nations.” Sections 1 and 3 survived into the final
text but Section 2 still did not cut the mustard. The signed version of
Article 6 reads: “Collective Self-Defence and Collective Action. 1. An
armed attack against a State Party shall be considered a threat to
regional peace and security and such an attack shall be met with
immediate collective action. 2. Collective action shall be mandated by
Summit on the recommendation of the Organ. 3. Each State Party shall
participate in such collective action in any manner it deems appropriate.
4. Any such armed attack, and measures taken in response thereto, shall
   immediately be reported to the Peace and Security Council of the African
Union and the Security Council of the United Nations.”
This wording — in particular Section 3 — allows state parties to claim
nearly anything short of inaction as compliance. In a lead editorial on
the pact, Business Day newspaper on September 1 argued that the wording
would allow South Africa to “not immediately respond in the face of an
appeal. And the wording of the pct means it would still be able to argue
it is upholding the agreement.” Fair enough. Then why bother with the
agreement? Business Day has a good answer, at least from a South African
perspective. “The main reason for the pact may be that, rather than the
desire for a tight military alliance, SA wants its interventions, when
and if they occur, constitutionally valid. Under the Constitution, any
military intervention must take place ‘in fulfilment of an international
obligation.'” [Section 201(2)(c) of Act 108 of 1996]
In this the pact succeeds. It creates a number of international
obligations. In terms of Section 3, state parties are obliged to settle
international disputes in which they are be involved by peaceful means.
They must also refrain from the threat of or use of force. Article 4,
“Military Preparedness”, obliges SADC members to “individually and
collectively, by means of continuous co-operation and assistance,
maintain and develop their individual and collective self-defence
capacity to maintain peace, stability and security.”
Article 5, in a nutshell, obliges signatories to repel invasion with
diplomacy. “1. Any State Party that considers its territorial integrity,
political independence and security to be under threat from another state
party, shall consult with such other State Party first and then with the
Organ. 2. Where such consultation does not yield satisfactory results the
Chairperson of the Organ may constitute a joint verification mission to
investigate the reported threat or alleged threat by a State Party.”
Hence “in case of emergency, hold talk shop.”
A most welcome obligation created by the document is the requirement for
militaries and more especially defence-related industries to co-operate
in several spheres. Article 9 highlights three areas of mutual interest –
– but doesn’t exclude the likelihood of more. Identified areas of
cooperation are:
   — individual and unit training as well as multinational exercises,
   — exchanging military intelligence and information, and
   — “joint research, development and production under license or otherwise
of military equipment, including weapons and munitions, and to facilitate
the supply of, or the procurement of defence equipment and services among
defence-related industries, defence research establishments and their
respective armed forces.”
Zimbabwean as well as South African defence and industry officials have
on a number of occasions called for exactly this kind of co-operation. To
date the unacceptable political situation in Zimbabwe, as well as an
informal arms embargo on Harare has effectively prevented their wishes
turning into action. The potential market for military and ancillary
equipment within the SADC created by Article 9 is vast and ranges the
full spectrum from prime mission equipment such as armoured vehicles and
aircraft to logistics means such as trucks, bridging and containers to
ancillaries such as signage and tentage.
The pact also includes a number of retrogressive provisions, principally
Article 7 “Non-Interference” which pledges State Parties undertake to
respect one another`s territorial integrity and sovereignty and, in
particular, observe the principle of non-interference in the internal
affairs of one another. Considering the unhappy history of this phrase,
it would have been best to have left it out. The damage it causes is
partly ameliorated by the inclusion of wording to the effect that this
principle is subject to Article 11(2) of the Protocol on Politics,
Defence and Security Cooperation, which authorises the Organ, among other
things, to “seek to resolve any significant intrastate conflict within
the territory of a State Party.” Incidents of significant intrastate
conflict includes genocide, ethnic cleansing, gross human rights
violations, coups, civil war or insurgency, or “conflicts which threatens
peace and security in the Region or in the territory of another state
party.” But when is significant “significant” and “gross” gross? And when
significant is sufficient and gross is outrageous enough, will the will
to act be there or will the cop-out clause kick in?
A second unhappy requirement is State Parties undertaking “not to
nurture, harbour or support any person, group of persons or institutions
whose aim is to destabilise the political, military, territorial and
economic or social security of a State Party.” Fair enough. But a
conservative interpretation — and despots are known to favour these —
could easily see legitimate political activism by political refugees
classified “destabilising factors” under the pact’s Article 8.
Another unnecessary requirement is that of confidentiality. Article 12
imposes strict conditions of confidentiality on parties. So much for
openness, transparency and confidence-building.
   ENDS