While Zambia has enjoyed relative peace, its neighbors have by and large experienced significant violent conflicts in the past four decades that Zambia has helped end in some of the countries such as Angola, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Unfortunately the effects of the wars in the region still continue to be felt by the citizen of the region as cluster munitions and land mines have all not been eradicated. While Angola’s civil war ended in 2002, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) got into violent conflict in the mid-1990s and spurts of war continue in some parts of that country such as Goma. The DRC also continues to be one of the countries within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) COMESA region that is struggling to address issues of war economies Mozambique’s long running civil strife which only ended at the start of the1990s. In Zimbabwe, considerable land related violence was evidenced from the beginning of 2000 and violence towards political opposition has continued as well as oppression against critics and those opposed to the Government. Further down south, South Africa in the recent past has witnessed xenophobic violent attacks against other citizens of the SADC region. In addition, South Africa has also witnessed violence against its own citizens especially as this relates to service delivery.
Further to Zambia’s north, intractable and deep-rooted ethnic violence bordering on genocide were epitomized in Rwanda and Burundi in the mid-1990s. In general, violence in neighboring countries has capacity to replicate itself in other countries and affect citizens of another country especially in the borders areas. These regional conflicts increase the risk of violent domestic conflicts which have the potential to become widespread in the region. Trade, economic, social and political activities are usually negatively affected by these wars regardless of which country in the region is experiencing war. Furthermore, countries experience an inflow of refugees as a result of wars which has an impact on the economic well-being of individuals. With these developments it is important to initiate interventions that will focus on reducing conflicts both at national level and regional level. This requires that all stakeholders increase their efforts in devising peace-building interventions that seek to enhance peace in both the SADC and COMESA region to which Zambia is a very important member state.
The Southern African region has enjoyed a state of unparalleled peace since the end of apartheid rule in South Africa and the cessation of civil hostilities in Angola and Mozambique. This, however, does not mean that security is no longer a matter of concern in the region. The prevailing political-social and economic situation in the region has rather resulted in a re-thinking of the definition of security. Military hostilities may have ceased in many countries of the region, but these have been replaced by different threats to state’s stability. A recent SADC Regional Vulnerability Assessment and Analysis (2012), for instance, catalogues a list of common challenges that threaten development gains and human security in the region. These problems include poor rainfall patterns, resulting in droughts and floods in parts of the region; continued incidences of livestock diseases; the high population of people living with HIV and AIDS in the world (35 percent); reduced household incomes due to the aforementioned problems; human and animal conflict; and negative effects of climate change. In addition, challenges such as poverty, unemployment, lack of civic participation in public decision making, massive economic migration, food insecurity, cluster munitions stockpiles, war economies (conflicts motivated by desire to access and control lucrative natural resources), drug-running and organised crime, high prevalence of small arms carried over mostly from past armed conflicts, present a new risk to human security in the region.
Zambia is familiar with the issue of cluster munitions, a form of explosive weapon that can be air-dropped or ground-launched and releases smaller sub-munitions. Commonly known as cluster bombs, they are designed to kill people, destroy vehicles or buildings and disperse over wide swaths of land. The bombs that remain as unexploded ordnance stay dormant for years, and kill and maim children or farmers clearing forests and fields long after a conflict has ended. A national survey conducted in Zambia between 2006 and 2009 revealed that landmines, which pose similar threats, still existed in six border provinces, and remnants of cluster munitions were found in the western and North-western regions of the country, a cruel legacy of neighboring conflicts.
Given the possibility that disruptive events in one country can easily spill over into neighboring countries, there is need to adopt regional approaches such as those offered by SADC, COMESA and New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) to common challenges. As of September 2013, Zambia and 20 other countries appended their signatures to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), an agreement which is expected to halt the sale of illegal arms in the world. In addition, Zambia assumed presidency of the cluster munitions convention after hosting the fourth meeting of states parties of the cluster munitions convention.
SACCORD within this strategic plan will continue to work with COMESA on issues of war economy which have been problematic in the region. SACCORD will further continue to work with its alliances on creating awareness and sensitization on the dangers that cluster munitions cause to communities in Zambia and the Southern African region. One of the major alliances in this regard is the Cluster Munitions Coalition (CMC).