CHIEFS AND DIRECTORS of military intelligence from around the East African Community (EAC) are meeting in Kigali to assess the region’s security situation.
Their agenda for the two-day conference, which will end today, is wide — well beyond delivering the usual speeches.
The meeting comes at a time the region continues to grapple with a series of security threats from terror groups and other armed groups operating in different parts.
The Chief of Defence Staff , General Patrick Nyamvumba gives his remarks during EAC chiefs and directors of intelligence meeting in Kigali today (Sam Ngendahimana)
It comes particularly after three weeks when Kenya, one of the members of the bloc, experienced a terror attack in which 21 people were killed and dozens of others sustained serious injuries.
Somali-based militant group, Al-Shabab, claimed responsibility for the January 15 attack.
Over the past couple of years, Rwanda also received quite similar security threats, mainly by armed militia groups operating in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
In February last year, Congolese forces (FARDC) attacked a military base of Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) in Shingiro, Musanze District.
More recently, in December, another armed group attacked Rwanda’s side of Rubavu District. The attack was reportedly carried out by FDLR, a group that is made up of elements who masterminded the 1994 Genocide against the Tusti.
Just last month, a report by the UN Group of Experts on DR Congo pinned Kayumba Nyamwasa, a Rwandan fugitive who lives in South Africa, on a rebel group that seeks to destabilise Rwanda.
According to the UN, Kayumba is the leader of a new rebel group called P5, linked to a coalition of Rwandan opposition political parties, which operates in DR Congo’s South Kivu Province.
“This region is in the middle of the storm. We have a number of security challenges. Terrorism is the main one, but we have other challenges,” Brigadier General Katsigazi Tumusiime, a Defence Liaison Officer from Uganda, told the media.
Tumusiime added that security challenges are no longer a one country problem, but rather a regional problem that needs joint mechanism to address.
At a previous meeting held early December in 2018 in Mwanza, Tanzania, the chiefs and directors of military intelligence observed that a negative armed group operating in Cabo Delgado Province in Mozambique, Al Sunnah Wa Jama’ah, could be having links with terrorist groups in the region.
General Patrick Nyamvumba addresses EAC chiefs and directors of intelligence meeting in Kigali today (Sam Ngendahimana)
The highlight of the two-day meeting will be a presentation of the report on Al Sunnah wa Jama’ah.
The guerrilla movement has, for the past few years, been tightening its deadly grip on the coast of Mozambique, which also borders Tanzania.
The previous meeting had tasked the Regional Defence Counter Terrorism Centre (RDCTC) to profile the group and establish its links with terrorist groups in the region and present a report to this week’s meeting.
Gen. Patrick Nyamvumba, the Chief of Defence Staff of the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF), highlighted that there was a need for the intelligence community to work together to respond to the on-going regional threats.
“EAC governments need to have ability to maintain security, track and detect terror operatives, and have a group rapid response capability to defeat eminent threats,” he said.
The absence of accurate and timely intelligence, he added, renders military operations not only ineffective but also continues to put EAC states at risk.
He emphasised that the intelligence chiefs need to come up with recommendations to support the decision making process in overcoming some of the threats the region is facing.
Such meetings convene in accordance with the EAC Protocol on Cooperation in Defence Affairs. They have been acting as a platform for intelligence community to share information on issues that are concern to the region.
Col. Andrew Nyamvumba, RDF’s head of defence intelligence, indicated that there was still a challenge of getting timely information, which makes it quite hard to respond to some of the threats.
“The existing challenge we have is the time we get the information and the role that information plays within that specific time. But we believe we’ll be able to achieve this if we master the culture of collaboration,” he noted.
Meanwhile, Rwanda will assume the Chairmanship of the quarterly meetings of the EAC’s chiefs and directors of military intelligence from Uganda, which has held the position for the past one year.