Joseph Madzimure Senior Reporter
PRESIDENT Mnangagwa, in his capacity as the Sadc chairperson of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Affairs, has deployed a technical team of experts to the Lake Tanganyika and Mweru/Mwero border between Zambia and the DRC following a resurgance of the decades-old border dispute between the two countries.
The President directed the executive secretary of SADC to facilitate the constitution and deployment of a technical experts team to conduct a mission in the affected border areas in north-eastern Zambia and south western Katanga province of the DRC.
The team that was dispatched on July 23 is being led by Zimbabwe’s Ambassador Raphael Faranisi in his capacity as President Mnangagwa’s representative as the chairperson of the organ. It is made up of experts from Botswana, DRC, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Supported by the SADC secretariat, the team will be deployed to Chibanga and Kibanga; Kalubamba; Musosa; Luchinda and Pweto areas that are in both DRC and Congo.
According to a report released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the objective of the mission is to conduct sensitisation campaigns for various target groups in order to secure full co-operation of the local population; facilitate the adoption of common system for determination of the border coordinates, and a phased approach for the border demarcation and identification of key reference beacons along the border.
“The mission is expected to end on July 29, 2020, and a detailed report will be submitted to President Mnangagwa who is the chairperson of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation. At this juncture, no public statements have been issued by the DRC-Zambia technical experts border issue team Mission,” reads the report from the ministry.
The deployment of a team of experts comes after DRC President Felix Tshisekedi in May this year sent a special envoy, the country’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Marie Nzeza, to President Mnangagwa with a request for the SADC Organ Chair to mediate in the dispute.
The decades-old dispute flared again in March when the DRC accused Zambia of moving to occupy its territory in Moba region.
President Mnangagwa, who was mandated by Sadc to ensure maintenance of peace, security and rule of law within the region then presented the matter to his regional counterparts.
The dispute dates back to the colonial era and has flared on and off since the British and the Belgians divided up Zambia and the DRC for themselves in early colonial times with occasional attempts every decade or so to settle the different border treaty interpretations but, since neither colonial power was interested in developing the border region or the people who live there, there was no priority set on settlement.
There was an attempt to settle the issue in 1989 when a treaty was signed between then Presidents Kenneth Kaunda (Zambia) and Mobutu Sese Seko (DRC) with beacons being placed along the border. However, arguments continued and the two countries are yet to find a lasting resolution to the dispute.
The Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation is established under the Sadc Treaty and Article 4 of the Sadc Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security.
It stipulates that the chairperson of the organ, in consultation with the Troika of Sadc, is responsible for the overall policy direction and achievement of the objectives of the organ, of promoting peace and security in the Sadc region.
Under a strict and founding African Union policy, colonial frontiers remain in place unless otherwise agreed on without dissent.
The occasional border disputes, such as those between Nigeria and Cameroon and between Botswana and Namibia, have all arisen because of ambiguities or incomplete information in a colonial treaty and have been settled by figuring out the most likely interpretation, at times using the World Court.