Banda sees 'peaceful, stable' SADC region

2013-08-17 22:50
Joyce Banda of Malawi. (AFP)

Joyce Banda of Malawi. (AFP)

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Lilongwe - The two day Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit was opened in Malawi on Saturday by President Joyce Banda of Malawi.

Banda became the first woman to head the block since its inception 33 years ago when she took over the rotating one-year chairmanship of the SADC from Mozambican leader Armando Guebuza.

Madagascar, DRC

The 15-nation summit is expected to be dominated by the political stand-off in Madagascar and the conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, according to a Malawian official.

Madagascar has been suspended from the regional grouping since strongman Andry Rajoelina toppled Marc Ravalomanana in 2009.

The SADC has been pushing the rivals to follow through on a roadmap meant to steer the island nation toward elections, which Banda hinted could be this year.

The vote has repeatedly been put on hold amid controversy over the candidacies of the three front-runners, including Rajoelina.

Regional mediators have called for Rajoelina, Ravalomanana's wife Lalao and former leader Didier Ratsiraka to stand aside, but all three have refused.

In the DRC, a quarter-million people have fled their homes since last year when the M23 rebel group took up arms against government troops in the mineral-rich but chronically unstable east.

Peaceful and stable region

Despite the trouble spots still dogging the SADC, an optimistic Banda foresees "a region that is peaceful and stable; a region that is an economic powerhouse."

But to achieve lasting peace and stability she urged a fight against poverty as well as "political tolerance and the rule of law."

"We must promote inclusive politics," said Banda.

Earlier, Banda offered congratulations to President Robert Mugabe for "conducting peaceful elections" in Zimbabwe.

"We wish to offer you continued support as a member of the family," Banda said to cheers from the audience.

A smiling Mugabe acknowledged the endorsement with his traditional clenched-fist salute.

Read more on:    sadc  |  joyce banda  |  malawi  |  zimbabwe elections 2013  |  southern africa

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