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COMESA reads riot act to entrepreneurs

KIGALI, Nov 11 – The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) is to tighten the noose around entrepreneurs and firms that take advantage of conflicts in member countries to benefit economically.

Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya said on Tuesday that they were in process of implementing a strategy that would help fight many aspects of the ‘war economies’ in the region.

“As you are aware, many conflicts in our region have been extended by conflict entrepreneurs, who have acted as peace spoilers in order to continue to benefit from illegal lucrative economic activities during conflict,” he said.

In a speech read on his behalf by the COMESA Head of Public Relations Mweusi Karake, Mr Ngwenya said the prevention, management and resolution plan was being developed in partnership with IGAD and the East African Community through which they would implement the wareconomy component.

This component is expected to among other things strengthen the bloc’s capacity to identify key actors that are responsible for propagating conflicts in the Eastern and Southern Africa.

At the opening of the second annual review workshop for civil society and private sector organisations, the Secretary General said civil society organisations had been involved in the developing strategies to eradicate the vice and also prevent conflicts.

Mr Ngwenya added that COMESA plans to start intervening in conflicts in their early stages as one way of attaining and sustaining peace and security in member countries.

“We have now established a conflict early warning system called ‘COMWARN’ which will be monitoring indicators that point to conflict vulnerabilities,” he said adding that they were in the process of developing the indicators.

In addition, five eminent persons have recently been elected to serve on a Committee of Elders in COMESA to assist the office of the Secretary General in preventive assignments and thus further strengthen its conflict prevention capabilities.

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 It is hoped that once these measures have been put in place, the regional economic bloc will be able to respond to its mandate of conflict prevention through preventive diplomacy.

Also present at the meeting was Rwandan Trade Minister Monique Nsanzabaganwa who reiterated the need for all member countries to enjoy peace and stability in order to aid the realization of the regional integration agenda such as infrastructure development and free movement of people and the promotion of the region as a viable investment destination.

She observed that the conflicts that have dogged Africa coupled with the high levels of poverty have had a negative effect on trade between countries and at the same time increasing insecurity.

“Nevertheless, we are an excellent example that a nation can rebuild no matter the level of conflict,” she said in reference to Rwanda which went through the worst genocide in the 1990s due to poor governance.

Mrs Nsanzabaganwa challenged the media to help fight the perception of insecurity about Africa which was also discouraging investors from coming into the continent.

“We must encourage responsible, conflict sensitive reporting that has the effect of mitigating and propagating the conflicts. Media, you have a duty to inform but you also have a duty to do so in a responsible manner,” the minister told participants in the three day workshop.

The participants are expected to develop joint plans of action with state actors in the COMESA region for the realisation of peace and security.

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