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Southern African leaders end summit urging greater industrial cooperation

HARARE, Zimbabwe--Southern African leaders ended a two-day summit Monday resolving to develop their industries to boost regional cooperation and set up a fund for its projects.

In a statement at the end of the two-day meeting in Zimbabwe's prime tourist resort town of Victoria Falls, the heads of state from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) said “industrialization should take center stage on SADC's regional integration agenda.”

The bloc tasked a ministerial panel “to develop a strategy and roadmap for industrialization in the region.”

“We have examined how we can make beneficiation and value addition an integral part of our regional strategic and development plan,” said Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.

The 90-year-old Mugabe has taken over the rotating chairman of the 15-nation regional grouping.

He said significant progress had been made on plans for a regional development fund.

“Such a mechanism will enable us to fund and own our programs and reduce ... dependence on our international cooperating partners,” Mugabe said.

“It is a mechanism which many regional economies communities have effectively utilized and SADC can be no exception.”

Mugabe had earlier urged member states to export finished products instead of raw materials if they are to reap maximum benefits for their economies.

The summit also urged member states to be vigilant to prevent the outbreak of the Ebola virus which has wreaked havoc in West Africa, and contain it in the event of an outbreak.

Ebola, which has no known cure, has killed at least 1,145 people in west Africa since the start of the year.

Meantime as the regional leaders wrapped up their meeting, more than 700 kilometers away in Harare, police beat and arrested opposition activists and a journalist during a rally demanding that Mugabe deliver on his pre-election promise to create two million jobs.

Anti-riot police used batons to break up the demonstration by youths from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

The photojournalist from the privately owned Zimbabwe Mail, Angela Jimu, was later freed without charge.

Rights groups last week urged the southern African countries at the SADC meeting to address abuses and uphold individual freedoms in their countries.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights deplored “serious human rights concerns” in Angola, Malawi, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

They accused Harare of dragging its feet in prosecuting perpetrators of political violence, and denounced secrecy around mining rights and the country's lucrative diamond fields.

Mugabe, in his maiden speech as chair of the meeting, said the SADC prided itself on having an impressive track record on matters of peace, security and democracy.

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