Lusaka, Monday, March 4, 2019: The COMESA Committee of Elders (CoE) is one of the critical pillars that seek to promote peace and security in the region as enshrined in Article 3 (d) of the COMESA Treaty. It was established in 2009 to augment the office of the Secretary General with peacemaking assignments through the Peace and Security programme.
Over the years, the Committee has been leading peace building activities with the most pronounced being the COMESA Election Observer missions where one of the elders takes charge. But on 19 – 22 February 2019, the entire team of nine converged in Kampala, Uganda for a different mission: a retreat to review their activities and elect their leaders for the next one year.
“The retreat was the second since 2011 and provided an opportunity for the elders to identify the good and best practices as well as the challenges encountered, with the view of maximizing the impact of their activities,” Richard Atwaru, Governance, Peace and Security Officer at the COMESA Secretariat who attended the retreat said.
Ambassador Mohamed Ashraf Rashed from Egypt was elected Chairperson and Madam Hope Kivengere of Uganda as Vice Chairperson.
The Head of Regional Peace and Security Department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uganda, Ambassador Paul Mukumbya addressed the meeting and expressed confidence with the work of the Committee, which he described as a positive contribution to regional peace building.
“It is very important to resolve conflicts through mediation and preventive diplomacy instead of allowing it to blow out and thus involve more expensive and costly resolution efforts,” Ambassador Mukumbya said.
During the retreat, the COMESA Programme on Peace and Security disseminated a draft handbook for the Mediation Strategy for COMESA for validation by the CoE. This will be mainly used by the CoE in their activities.
Six of the Committee members appointed in July 2018 during the 20th Summit of the COMESA Authority in Lusaka were inducted at the retreat. This involved introduction to the Rules of Procedure of the Committee, the Standard Operating Procedures and the Mediation Guidelines.
At the end of the retreat, the Elders resolved to champion the COMESA agenda in their respective Member States and especially the COMESA Programme on Peace and Security The retreat was also attended by a representative from the Africa Union Panel of the Wise, independent experts on peace and security and representatives from the Uganda Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Other members of the CoE include: Dr Sabine Nkarutimana (Burundi), Ambassador, Professor Judith Bahemuka (Kenya), Bishop Mary Catherine Nkosi (Malawi) Ambassador Patrice Eugene Cure (Mauritius) Ambassador Marie-Pierre Lloyd (Seychelles) Dr Mohammed Ahmed Abdelghaffar (Sudan) and Dr Simbi Mubako (Zimbabwe)