Rwandan President Paul Kagame has called for frequent regional military drills, saying they are important in addressing security threats in the region.
« During decades of violent conflict in Africa, we learnt a key lesson: While partnership with the international community is important, Africans have to find lasting solutions to their own problems of peace and security and take development matters into our hands, » the president said.
He was speaking during at the launch of the East African Community Command Post Exercise code-named « Ushirikiano Imara, » hosted at the Rwanda Military Academy, Nyakinama, in Northern Province.
The exercise is aimed at enhancing inter-operability and fostering co-operation between the EAC armed forces and other non-military agencies.
President Kagame said regional integration should go beyond economic integration to co-operation in the area of security to safeguard the gains accruing from economic integration.
East Africa is faced with the problem of piracy in Indian Ocean waters and the threat of the Al-Shabaab militia in lawless Somalia.Also posing a threat to regional security are the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, the Lord’s Resistance Army of Uganda and the Front Nationale Pour la Liberation in Burundi.
Rwanda is hosting both the Command Post Exercise and the subsequent Field Training Exercise that is scheduled for 2012.
The exercise has brought together 300 military personnel (generals, senior officers, junior officers and other ranks) from the EAC partner states.
It will develop the regional armies’ capacity in peace support, counter terrorism, counter piracy, disaster management, as well as enhancing mutual understanding within the regional armed forces.
EAC Secretary-General Richard Sezibera said the military co-operation between the EAC member states was critical in consolidating the achievements of integration.
The memorandum of understanding on defence co-operation among the EAC countries mandates the partner states to work together in joint military training, joint operations, technical assistance, exchange of information and military visits.
According to the Rwanda Defence Forces spokesman, Col Joseph Nzabamwita, it was through such military co-operation and drills that the region will be able to respond efficiently and deal with security threats across the bloc.
« At the moment we have an EAC Standby Brigade, which is starting to be operational. It it is here that we will start to flush out rebels across the region.
« This is not about competing or copying each others’ military skills but it is about sharing and training together so as to become stronger and be able to eliminate any threat, » he said.
Other joint military training exercises have been held in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.