Leaders from 15 southern African nations have opened two days of discussions in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Political confrontations in Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Lesotho and eastern Congo are high on the agenda.
The Southern African Development Community summit in Kinshasa is expected to call for Western nations to lift sanctions against Zimbabwe and hear progress reports on mediation efforts in several member nations.
Outgoing SADC Chairman, South African President Jacob Zuma, said significant progress has been made since the Global Political Agreement was signed one year ago between Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. But he indicated more work remains to be done.
"We urge all parties to remove any obstacles to the implementation of the agreement," Mr. Zuma said.
A spokesman for Mr. Tsvangirai, James Maridadi, said the subject of Zimbabwe would be dealt with at a special summit.
"Zimbabwe is not on the agenda. Zimbabwe is clearly not on the agenda. What we are saying is that we have heard what the incoming and outgoing chairmen have said, and it is indicative, that there will be an extraordinary summit on Zimbabwe," Maridadi said.
There was no confirmation of this statement from SADC officials.
The so-called Global Political Agreement led to the creation in February of a unity government in Zimbabwe. But Mr. Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change has complained of hundreds of violations of the accord by Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF Party, including failing to reverse appointments of allies to key political and administrative posts.
Mr. Mugabe has complained that Mr. Tsvangirai has failed to persuade western governments to lift sanctions against senior officials in his party and halt what is termed hostile foreign broadcasts to Zimbabwe.
Also on SADC's agenda, former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano is to present a report on his efforts to mediate a political standoff in Madagascar that erupted early this year when then-President Marc Ravalomanana was ousted by current leader Andry Rajoelina. SADC called the ouster a coup and suspended Madagascar.
Former Botswana President Ketumile Masire is also scheduled to present a report on his efforts to mediate a standoff in Lesotho that lingers two years after disputed elections there.
And Southern African leaders are to study efforts to end violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo one year after renewed fighting displaced an estimated 200,000 people in its eastern Kivu region.
The number-two official in South Africa's Foreign Affairs Ministry, Director-General Ayanda Ntsaluba, said these crises will test incoming SADC Chairman, Congolese President Joseph Kabila, whose government is preoccupied with rebuilding the country after two civil wars.
"If anyone of us said the DRC is not going to struggle a bit I think [he or she] would be lying. It is a huge responsibility. They have got very pressing domestic challenges," Ntsaluba said.
SADC officials say the leaders will also forge common positions on addressing climate change and the global recession. And they are to seek ways to harmonize customs tariffs between SADC and two other regional groups, the East African Community and the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA).