President Rupiah Banda and President Jacob Zuma of South Africa last evening had a closed-door meeting ending about 18:30 hours local time, it has emerged.
But what was on top of the agenda? And why did president Banda suddenly travel in circumstances that are raising questions?
President Rupiah Banda will in the next few days host and probably chair a very sensitive summit of heads of States and presidents from 19 countries. The summit is about peace and security in the war prone countries like Rwanda, Angola, Burundi, DRC, Somalia etc….
This area is referred to as the Great lakes region of Africa. The United Nations and African Union has been concerned that if the wars in these countries continue, they have the potential to destabilise the whole continent.
In the Dar-Es-Salaam Declaration of 19-20 November 2004, on Peace, Security, Democracy and Development within the Great Lakes Region, the Heads of State and Government of the Great Lakes Region decided to establish a regional security framework for the prevention, management and peaceful settlement of conflicts and, to that end, evaluate regularly relevant sub-regional initiatives and mechanisms and adapt them while encouraging appropriate traditional structures.
The Heads of State also committed themselves to strengthen cooperation in the area of defence and security and promote confidence building by establishing policies, measures and mechanisms aimed at enhancing good neighbourliness and multi-sectoral cooperation.
It is very interesting to note that South Africa, a ‘super power’ in Africa and geographically relevant is not part of the framework of the great lakes region.
Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. These countries plus the host Zambia make the core group of the Great lakes region .
South Africa has always been complaining about being sidelined in these summits and Jacob Zuma isn’t coming to Zambia for the next summit. He is not invited.
In May 2003, the Mail & Guardian newspaper of South Africa reported that South Africa was in danger of being excluded from a summit on peace and development in the Great Lakes where it has brokered the two most important peace deals.
The paper said that ”arrangements for these meetings have been limited to the so-called core countries: Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.
‘Exclusion would be a slap in the face for South Africa, which spent months brokering settlements in Burundi and the DRC.
At the preparatory meeting in Nairobi last week for the first summit, which is scheduled for June 2004, delegates spoke of involving “countries in the region and development partners”.
‘They also appealed to the international community to support the peace processes politically and financially.
No mention was made of South Africa, which has, for more than a year, put Deputy President Jacob Zuma and Minister of Provincial and Local Government Sydney Mufamadi at the disposal of the Burundians and the Congolese respectively.”
South Africa spent more than R600-million of South African taxpayers’ money on peacekeeping operations in the DRC.
But there can be little doubt that South Africa is interested in what will be discussed and would not sit idle while peace and security in the region is being discussed. They need to know what is on the agenda.
Besides, South Africa appears to have exercise a ‘protective’ interest over Zambia. In the mid 90s, one neighboring country ravaged by a civil war accused Zambia of supporting rebels by supplying arms. It was rumored then that the neighbor planned to attack Zambia.
Zimbwabwen president Robert Mugabe intervened diplomatically but the neighbor was adamant.
Then South African president Nelson Mandela is said to have written a letter and gave it to King Mswati of Swaziland to deliver to the roaring neighbor.
The letter was obviously not copied to the media but it was reported that in the letter, Mandela said ‘an attack on Zambia is an attack on South Africa.’
It is very likely that the two presidents discussed the forthcoming summit.