IJR’s Dr. Webster Zambara participated at the 15th Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Civil Society Forum that was recently held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania from 13 – 15 August, ahead of the SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government. The Forum ran under the theme ‘Towards a Prosperous and Integrated Africa: Equity and Justice for All’. It brought together more than 150 delegates from all SADC member states and was organized by the SADC-Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (SADC-CNGO) with whom IJR has a long standing partnership through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed 2013. The other organizing partners are the labour movement Southern Africa Trade Unions Coordination Council (SATUCC) and the religious movement Fellowship of Christian Councils of Southern Africa (FOCCISA). Together with the SADC-CNGO, SATUCC and FOCCISA form the regional civil society tripartite apex council that engages the Regional Economic Community and all member states on all relevant issues affecting the people of the region in general, and their membership in particular.
Although SADC has a clearly defined peace, security, democratic and governance architecture, which includes mechanisms to address conflict and political crisis in the region, the region continues to experience the consequences of the legacies of violent conflict and political crises. During the Forum, IJR and the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) jointly held a side event on the newly adopted African Transitional Justice Policy (AUTJP). More than 40 participants attended, and CSVR and IJR used it to highlight the role of transitional Justice in Southern Africa, particularly transitional justice processes, mechanisms and issues that will enhance the potential for regional reconciliation, peace and development.
As a direct contribution to the position paper that came out of the Forum, IJR and CSVR made two proposals on Transitional Justice and on Mental Health as follows:
Transitional Justice – Following the adoption of the African Union Transitional Justice Policy (AUTJP) in February 2019, SADC Member States should develop a regional strategy that will guide the interventions to address historical injustices, present conflicts and human rights violations in order to promote reconciliation and achieve sustainable peace and development
Mental Health – Considering that societies that have experienced violent conflict, decades of racial and gender oppression, as well as authoritarian rule, they face serious challenges related the legacy of trauma and woundedness. The failure to deal with this legacy of collective and individual trauma will continue to impede efforts toward a prosperous and integrated Southern Africa. Appreciating the crippling effects of mental illnesses such as depression, drug and substance abuse on communities, we urge SADC Member states to prioritise mental health and wellness as a crucial component of ensuring post-conflict peace and development.(Article contribution: Dr. Webster Zambara)
In line with its vision of building fair, democratic and inclusive societies in Africa, IJR will continue to nurture the capacity of civil society to sustain peace in Southern Africa.