By Lovemore Ranga Mataire recently in Windhoek, Namibia
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) President Joseph Kabila last Friday delivered an emotional farewell speech at the 38th SADC Heads of State and Government summit in Windhoek, Namibia, where he paid tribute to regional leaders for supporting his country's efforts in finding lasting peace.
President Kabila, who punctuated his speech with humuor, thanked the regional leaders who made his work as president of DRC easy saying he was also grateful to those who made it a little difficult.
Kabila said his term in office has been a difficult and challenging journey aimed at unifying and consolidating state authority in his country.
The DRC president further said his country has been rejecting some form of blackmail and imposition regarding its electoral processes and that it remained alert and steadyfast against such machinations.
Kabila said beyond peace and security, economic development has been top on the agenda of his administration.
He urged the SADC region to be strong and not to forget the past in as far as the regional body’s mission is concerned.
President Kabila had delegates in stitches of laughter when he said he was not sure whether this was his last address to the summit or not.
The leader of the vastly rich central African country announced earlier this month that he will not stand as candidate in the upcoming December presidential elections.
Reminiscing on the journey his country has travelled since joining SADC, President Kabila said; "Twenty years ago, I was a member of the very first delegation from the Democratic Republic of Congo at the SADC summit in Lusaka, Zambia. Yes, indeed, us the DRC joined the SADC family and what a journey it has been."
President Kabila said SADC stood with DRC during its most trying times and made several sacrifices that even led to the loss of lives.
"For all your sacrifices, we as a nation will forever be grateful. But for all those sacrifices not to be in vain, we need to ensure that the dreams and aspirations are consolidated," President Kabila said.
President Kabila said beyond peace, security, stability, democracy and elections, the major recipe for his country's sustenance was hinged om economic progress.
"We in the DRC have over the last 20 years been active and pushing forward the SADC agenda."
He said any future development was dependant on infrastructure development and youth empowerment.
President Kabila paid tribute to all former leaders in the SADC region who oversaw the transition of DRC from war to democracy.
Under the DRC constitution, President Kabila is barred from running for a third term.
His former Interior Minister, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, will run as the ruling coalition's candidate in the December 23 presidential election.
The stepping down of President Kabila marks a significant shift in the political landscape in DRC.
President Kabila has held the presidency since 2001, after taking over after the assassination of his father, former President Laurent-Desire Kabila.
African Union (AU)Chairperson, Paul Kagame, who is also Rwandan President also addressed the delegates.
Others in attendance were former Presidents of Mozambique Joaquim Chissano and Namibia’s Founding President Sam Nujoma and former President Hifikepunye Pohamba.
The theme of the summit held at the Safari Hotel and Conference Centre was “Promoting Infrastructure Development and Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development".