Monday, June 08, 2009

Conflicts Hurt African Integration, Says COMESA

VICTORIA FALLS, Zimbabwe 5 June 2009 Sapa-AFP


Political conflicts in countries like Somalia and Madagascar
hinder Africa's efforts at regional integration, the head of the
continent's biggest trade bloc said Friday.

COMESA secretary general Sindiso Ngwenya hailed efforts to
resolve conflicts in countries like the Democratic Republic of
Congo, where about half of the bloc's members were fighting a
regional war in 1999.

"The lack of a forum for dialogue to address conflicts was a gap
that was hindering our progress in economic intergration," Ngwenya
told foreign ministers from COMESA's 19 members, ahead of a heads of state summit this weekend.

"We should however be mindful that as we address conflicts that
besieged us for the past few years, new issues of peace and
security have emerged that have a negative impact on our
intergration efforts," Ngwenya said in his address.

"Such issues include piracy of the coast of Somalia and recent
conflicts in Madagascar.

"These are issues that need your attention and I am pleased to
inform you that the committee on peace and security which met two
weeks ago in Mauritiius considered these issues."

Ngwenya said the Common Market for East and Southern Africa
(COMESA) was working to establish an early response system meant to nip new conflicts in the bud.

Zimbabwe's vice president Joice Mujuru said such a mechanism was needed to defuse tensions around the region.

"It is therefore important as region to enhance capacity to
detect brewing conflicts so that timely interventions can be
triggered before problems escalate into fully blown violent
conflict," Mujuru told the meeting.

COMESA plans to launch the continent's biggest customs union
this weekend, harmonising tariffs across a region that stretches
from Egypt to South Africa.

COMESA comprises Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, the Democratic
Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya,
Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan,
Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

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