Today, Her Honour Mrs. W. K. Mutale-Nalumango, MP, the Vice-President of the Republic of Zambia, delivered a speech at the opening ceremony of the Eighteenth Meeting of the COMESA Ministers of Foreign Affairs. The event took place at the Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka, with the aim of addressing peace, security, and stability in the COMESA region.
Vice President Nalumngo, on behalf of President Hakainde Hichilema, warmly welcomed the distinguished delegates, emphasizing the importance Zambia attaches to democracy, peace, and security. She highlighted Zambia’s recent hosting of the 2nd Global Summit for Democracy, which witnessed the participation of 21 African countries, as a testament to the significance of the meeting. The Vice President expressed gratitude to COMESA member states that participated in the summit, emphasizing the mission of exploring solutions to ongoing conflicts in the region.
The Vice President commended the ministers for discussing matters of regional democracy, peace, and security ahead of the 22nd Summit of Heads of State and Government scheduled for June 8th, 2023. She stressed that the founding fathers of COMESA recognized early on that peace is essential for meaningful integration and sustainable development.
Vice President Nalumngo expressed her confidence in the recommendations from the meeting, affirming that they would be taken on board by the COMESA Authority. She further addressed the pressing issues of conflict in the COMESA region, highlighting the regrettable situation in Sudan and the re-emergence of the M23 crisis in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The Vice President expressed hope that recent efforts facilitated by IGAD, AU, UN, and other partners would yield positive results in the shortest possible time.
Acknowledging the signing of an agreement to end the conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, Vice President Nalumngo commended the parties involved for their efforts in returning to lasting peace, economic development, and prosperity. She also drew attention to the encouraging transition processes in Libya, calling for guidance from the meeting to address outstanding issues and consolidate democratic principles while tackling threats to regional peace, security, and economic development.
While disturbances in the COMESA region sometimes grab media attention, Vice President Nalumngo reminded the attendees of COMESA’s numerous achievements since its establishment. She cited examples such as the recent opening of the Chipata-Mchinji One-Stop Border Facility between Zambia and Malawi, highlighting the potential for prosperity and economic growth when peace prevails.
Furthermore, the Vice President congratulated President William Ruto of Kenya and President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud of Somalia on their recent election victories, commending the continued upward trend in consolidating democracy within the COMESA region.
Vice President Nalumngo appreciated the efforts of the COMESA Secretariat in implementing programs on peace and security. She emphasized the importance of addressing structural and root causes of conflict, such as economic downturns, climate change, social exclusion, unequal wealth distribution, and increased unemployment rates. The Vice President stressed that these challenges must be tackled early to eliminate conditions that escalate conflicts.
Highlighting the impact of climate change on peace and security dynamics, the Vice President commended the COMESA Secretariat for its efforts in strengthening climate change programs. She noted that climate change-related disasters, such as intense heatwaves, droughts, and floods, have significant implications for food security, displacement, and infrastructure damage in the COMESA region.
Vice President Nalumngo concluded her speech by urging the ministers to engage in fruitful deliberations and outcomes, and encouraged them to explore the city of Lusaka and its surroundings. She extended an invitation to the ministers to consider Zambia for their next family holiday or business trip.
In closing, the Vice President officially declared the Eighteenth Meeting of the COMESA Ministers of Foreign Affairs open.
The meeting is expected to yield valuable insights and recommendations to strengthen peace, security, and stability in the COMESA region, fostering a conducive environment for economic growth and prosperity.