Maiden Speech of President Wavel Ramkalawan on the occasion of the 41st Summit of SADC Heads of States and Government
17 August 2021 | Foreign Affairs
Your Excellency President Lazarus Chakwera, Chairman of the 41st Summit of Heads of State and Government,
Colleague Heads of State and Government,
Madam Executive Secretary of SADC,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
There is no greater test of character of a leader, than that which calls upon us to make difficult and justified decisions for the betterment of our people, but also to discard inaction as the undoing of even the most well-thought-out plans.
With these words, I would like to pay tribute to the exceptional African leaders who have recently passed. Late President John Pombe Magufuli was an extraordinary leader and a true visionary. His achievements for the people of the United Republic of Tanzania bears true testament to his lasting legacy.
To our brother Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth, your late father Sir Anerood Jugnauth commands our respect and our admiration. Mauritius is a shining beacon today because of Sir Anerood’s sterling leadership that saw the transformation of the Mauritian society.
Let us also pay a special tribute to the loss of the last founding father of SADC and a true African Icon, the late Dr. Kenneth Kaunda. His everlasting legacy should serve as an inspiration for today’s African leaders to continue to honour his vision of a unified and prosperous Africa.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In the midst of one of the most challenging times in our history, it is a privilege to address this assembly for the first time since being elected by the Seychellois people as their President back in October 2020.
It is the first time that I address you but not the first time that I participate in the work of SADC. During my time as Leader of the Opposition – my crossing of the desert, if you will – I served as Chairperson of the Democracy, Governance and Human Rights Standing Committee of the SADC Parliamentary Forum from 2018 to 2020. I also participated in a number of its other activities, even serving as the Chair of all chairpersons, having the great role of overseeing model laws of the Forum. The values and principles for which SADC stands and which it promotes and defends inspired me to bring real change, real democracy to my country. Seychelles owes much to SADC for this, in the same way that we are indebted to our regional organisation for its contribution to our peaceful and exemplary peaceful transition from one administration to another.
The values and principles which we share continue to shape the direction of our regional integration agenda. We are guided by the belief that we can create a region in which cooperation, rather than conflict, drives progress, stability and prosperity for all of us. In this context, we thank wholeheartedly, the distinguished leaders who participated in the most recent Extraordinary SADC Summit of Heads of State in Maputo, Mozambique. This reaffirms our region’s commitment to tackling terrorism head-on and ensuring lasting peace.
This terrorism threat cannot be underestimated. We are all too aware of the risks of a spill-over into other territories, as we are aware of the havoc, the indescribable pain and suffering it has wreaked on the Cabo Delgado region itself. We must remain vigilant and focus on identifying opportunities, practical solutions and more importantly be action-oriented. For this reason, we reaffirm our stance that there needs to be a harmonisation of policies as opposed to the implementation of fragmented policies as has been the case in some instances.
Maritime security may seem to be a somewhat distant concept to some of us on the mainland. But let me reassure you all that the protection of our waters must be a concern to us all. The Western Indian Ocean maritime route accounts for 12% of the global world trade and the protection of this important route means protecting our very livelihood. Moreover, we need to take cognisance of the fact that the proliferation of illicit drugs and weapons, and the trafficking of persons transported via maritime routes are undermining the internal and regional security of all Eastern African States. All reports suggest that terrorist groups are funding their activities and enhancing capacities through such illicit maritime activities. For this reason, the issue of maritime security cannot be overstated and needs to feature prominently on our security agenda.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
Having served as Chair of the Democracy, Governance and Human Rights Standing Committee of the SADC Parliamentary Forum, I find the endeavour to transform the SADC Parliamentary Forum into the SADC Parliament as an important development to elevate the level of engagement and enhance the political and democratic discourse, within our region. The establishment of the SADC Parliament will transcend political cooperation and will also play a pivotal role in amplifying the voice and the will of the people in our region. I have been a staunch advocate of this transformation. Seychelles has already given its commitment and I urge all of us to make this happen here in Malawi at this session.
Our region must stand strong and unified to address the current challenges before us. Having access to vaccines is a basic human right and as long as Africa remains deprived of this vital resource, battling the COVID 19 pandemic will be futile. In the context of globalisation, our economies are interdependent and the restriction on economic activities because of COVID 19 in one country most certainly impacts economic activities in other parts of the world. For this reason, I join in the call to countries having a surplus of vaccines to share them with others which are having difficulty accessing the supply of these vaccines. Hoarding of vaccines serves no purpose, but only the narrow, selfish and misguided interests.
To overcome the plethora of challenges caused by the pandemic and to build back better, trade has to be the cornerstone of our economic cooperation. It has been estimated by the World Bank that the African Continental Free Trade Agreement will boost regional income by 7% or to the value of $450 billion. In this regard, I am pleased to announce to this Summit that Seychelles is the latest SADC member to ratify the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. Being an import-dependent country, the agreement will be a positive tool to help us achieve our objectives, tackle inflation and lower the cost of living for our people.
Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,
The fate, indeed the very survival, of Small Island Developing States has always been intertwined with the ocean. Seychelles has always attached immense importance to the ocean. Our people have a direct dependence on the ocean resources for their identity, sustenance and livelihood. Our traditional economic pillars, tourism and fisheries, depend on the ocean. With our tourism sector brought to its knees in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are forced to give greater attention to the Ocean in ways which will yield greater benefits and minimise the risks to the ocean - an ocean which is already under pressure from overfishing, illegal fishing, threats to maritime safety, and the impacts of climate change. Given that most of our states have a coastline, I call on all of us as members of SADC to give greater importance in the protection of our seas and oceans, as was celebrated by the AU recently.
As diligent members of our community, it is incumbent upon us to take bold and innovative actions to achieve our goals of sustainable development, alleviating poverty and enhancing the standard and quality of life of the people of southern Africa through regional integration. We, the member States, have invested a lot of resources in SADC and we are working tirelessly towards ensuring that the multilateral system as a whole is fair, transparent and efficient. We believe that working in the interest of peace and stability means striving for a more balanced and fairer system, founded on true dialogue between all member states. We must never lose sight of these principles.
In conclusion, may I once again thank you, my fellow heads of state and government for your kind messages upon my election and for your warm welcome today. I regret not having been able to be with you for this summit. I wish you fruitful deliberations. May the Almighty bless the SADC region and our dearest African continent.
I thank you.