SADC should tread carefully with Burundi

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Shortly after last year’s Southern African Development Community (SADC) Heads of State and Government Summit held in Windhoek, Namibia, we called on the regional body to revoke the Island of Comoros’ membership with it until such a time that its leaders respect the country’s constitution and restore civil liberties once enjoyed by its citizens.

It was clear that the decision to welcome the island nation into the SADC family was so ill-conceived to the extent that its head of state could not even see the summit through. He had to cut his attendance short and return home due to fears that he might be overthrown while out of the country. 

He did not even deliver his maiden speech at the summit.

We argued that this should not have been allowed, especially since SADC has for years been grappling with finding a lasting peaceful solution to members like Lesotho, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as well as Madagascar. 

SADC has been clear that political strongmen are not welcome in the region and that democratic elections and the rule of law are the order. So one wonders how someone who is trying to rule by force was allowed to become a member in the first place. When SADC invited Comoros on an observatory role at the SADC Heads of State and Government Summit in South Africa two years ago, it did not foresee that the country would slide into a political abyss by the time it was legally admitted into SADC.

Comoros Islands applied for its SADC membership in 2016 at the same time with Burundi. 

In this week’s edition, we are carrying a story reporting that Burundi’s application is set to be discussed at the Ministerial Committee of the Organ (MCO) for Politics, Defence and Security meeting to be held before this year’s 39th SADC Summit in August.

According to a SADC Secretariat manuscript, the new date for the assessment mission will be agreed upon with the government of Burundi, and progress will be reported in August.

The Ministerial Committee of the Organ can only make recommendations to the Summit through the council of ministers.

The main criterion for SADC membership is that the applicant country must show the commonality of political, economic, social and cultural systems with the systems of the SADC region. But the regional body also expects the applicant country to be one that observes the principles of democracy, human rights, good governance and the rule of law, in accordance with the African Charter of Human and People's Rights.  By looking at just these two requirements, it is clear that the sovereignty of the ordinary citizen in the applying country is of significant importance to SADC.

Reports from that country speak to allegations of human rights violations against the government and disregard for the country’s constitution as well as the principles of democracy.

 

 

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