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Ministers of Foreign Affairs from COMESA Member States met in Madagascar ahead of the organization’s 19th Summit of the Heads of State mid this week. The main agenda of the meeting was to review peace and security situation in the COMESA region.

Prime Minister of Madagascar Right Honorable Mahafaly Soloandrasana Olivier opened the meeting which was also addressed by Secretary General of COMESA Mr Sindiso Ngwenya.

The PM expressed his country’s appreciation for support provided by the regional grouping to return to democratic order after a period of political instability in the past.  He said the Madagascar political crisis provides useful lessons to the region on the need to consolidate peace without which economic development cannot be realized.

Secretary General of COMESA informed the ministers that the regional bloc had put in place crisis prevention measures to detect simmering conflicts.

“We have put in place a robust early warning system on conflicts in the region known as COMWARN and completed our first structural vulnerability assessments which we disseminated to all countries last year,” the Secretary General announced adding that this will contribute to finding lasting peace in our region.

He said, in addition, that 16 Trade Information Desks have been established under COMESA’s Post Conflict programme. This has reinforced trade and investment in the Great Lakes region and as a result, thousands of small scale traders can obtain accurate and reliable information at the border areas thus facilitating cross border trade.

“We are now at an advanced stage of establishing five border markets and access roads in the same region with an estimated budget of approximately five million euros, mobilized from partners.” Mr Ngwenya told the Ministers. “This focus has become a niche for COMESA because we recognise that peace processes do not end with the signing of agreements but the phase that follows is critical for ensuring lasting peace.”

Other peace building initiatives by the regional bloc include support to 10 countries affected the most by maritime piracy. Under this initiative, Mr Ngwenya said COMESA was strengthening their capacity to fight financial crimes that result from piracy and other predicate offenses, as well as ensure that the illegally gotten money does not further perpetrate these crimes.

The Prime Minister said Madagascar has now been admitted to the East and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG), which is a requirement of all jurisdictions fighting money laundering. The admission was facilitated through the COMESA Maritime Security Programme (MASE) funded by the European Union.

MASE is implemented in 10 countries that were most vulnerable to piracy attacks including Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Somalia and Tanzania.

Its overall objective is to fight piracy and other maritime threats