Ethiopian State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ambassador Berhane Gebre-Christos has called on COMESA Member States to complement the efforts of other sub regional groupings in the region and continental Union involved in peace and security to avoid duplication of efforts and institutional rivalry.
Addressing the 14th Meeting of the COMESA Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs in Addis Ababa, on Saturday March 28th, Ambassador Gebre-Christos said it was not only critical to build peace where it has been established but also to overcome through dialogue the persistent stalemate characterizing some conflict situations in the region. This he said would ensure that the high risk of relapsing into violence was avoided.
The Minister cited terrorism as one of the serious threat facing COMESA region that required collective action to counter it.
“Terrorism threat posed by groups such as Al Shabab, AQIM, LRA and others is not only a problem of few countries but of each and every one of us,” the Minister said. “Our counter-terrorism efforts should begin from a clear understanding of this fundamental reality and demonstrate a firm commitment to individually and collectively fight the menace.”
He urged the COMESA states to support the peace efforts in Somalia and continue to assist, encourage and even press parties in South Sudan when necessary in order to achieve durable peace and stability.
Addressing the Ministers, COMESA Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya said the most urgent thing was to manage and resolve existing conflicts, and ensure that the factors that led people to pick up arms are addressed comprehensively so that any conflicts that are resolved remain resolved.
In this regard, he said COMESA had prioritized the development of programs on post conflict reconstruction and development especially in the Great Lakes Region through the trading for peace program.“Investing in empowering our communities at the border area and encouraging interaction between them, will be an incentive to avoid getting into activities that can disrupt the benefits accrued from the trading relations,” Mr Ngwenya said. So far, he said 10 Trade Information Desks have been established at various border posts of the Great Lakes Region that provides small scale cross border traders with information as pricing, taxes and markets.
In addition, another phase of the program had begun this year aimed at reinforcing infrastructure at these border posts starting with the reconstruction of border offices at Goma and Kavimvira in the Democratic Republic of Congo in order to serve the traders more efficiently. The project is supported by the KfW Bank under the framework of the African Peace and Security Architecture.
“During this phase, we plan to construct markets at Goma, Rubavu, Gatumba and Kavimvira, at the cost of approximately three Million dollars,” Mr Ngwenya informed the Ministers.
In addition to the post conflict reconstruction programs, COMESA was also investing in an early warning system that is able provide indications about structural factors that need to be addressed long before they manifest. The Secretary General however noted that it was “up to policy makers to act on the warnings given, if the conflict is going to be prevented.”
Mr Ngwenya thanked the European Union for funding the Maritime Security program, and development of COMESA mediation support and early warning programs through the African Union. He also thanked the KfW bank, the African Development Bank and USAID for supporting the Trading for Peace Program.