COMESA joins private sector to address conflicts

Lusaka- Zambia (PANA) -- Member states of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) have agreed to work with the private sector, NGOs and the civil society in the promotion of peace and security in the sub-region.
The agreement was reached by the grouping's foreign ministers who met last week in Lusaka to work out modalities of addressing conflicts in the region.
They agreed to work with the business community on a trade-based practice of peace building.
The ministers resolved to step up efforts to control the proliferation of small and light weapons.
COMESA public relations officer Mweusi Karake, told PANA in Lusaka Thursday, that the meeting had noted that the business community was to blame for proliferation of arms which cause most of the conflicts in the region.
"So in order to control the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, it was agreed by the ministers that COMESA also work with the business community.
" "It was also realised that stakeholders who are working at grass-root level were usually left out in matters of conflict resolution," Karake said.
Karake said COMESA member states would step up campaign against land-mines, stockpiling, transfer, use and sale and manufacturing or arms.
He said the body's involvement in peace and security should not be seen as a duplication of on-going efforts by other sub- regional organisations like the Intergovernmental Organisation on Development (IGAD), the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).
"It's involvement, would be to focus on conflict prevention while working with the OAU central organ on conflict prevention management and resolution as well as complimenting efforts of other sub-regional organisations," he added.
Karake explained that the decision by COMESA to involve itself in conflict prevention, was because of the major setback to the organisation's socio-economic progress as a result of conflicts currently going on in almost half of the 21 members states.
Member states currently engaged in conflicts include Angola, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Namibia and Zimbabwe fighting along side with the Congolese government and Uganda and Rwanda which are backing rebels groups in the DRC.
The ministers also expressed dissatisfaction that for almost six months after the launching of the Free Trade Area, some members states have not been able to joint it due to the on-going conflicts.
A report submitted at the ministerial meeting indicated that the root causes of conflicts in the sub-region were complex and ranged from issues of ethnic identity, greed for resources, land and proliferation of small arms.

19 april 2001 17:36:00




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