Four contingents of military doctors from regional countries have been in Rwanda as part of the East African Community Civil Military Cooperation (CIMIC) where they engaged in medical outreach activities in different hospitals across the country.
The military medics representing Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda were until Wednesday this week, deployed to hospitals to work alongside their Rwandan counterparts to provide free medical services to patients in hospitals of Rwamagana, Nyagatare, Bugesera and Kayonza.
The South Sudanese team was made of 19 soldiers who were based in Nyagatare District Hospital and they included general surgeons, gynaecologists, an internist and a pharmacist, among other specialists.
CIMIC, which was conducted in Uganda last year, was modelled on Rwanda Defence Force’s Citizen Outreach Programme, formerly known as Army Week, that has been taking place annually since July 2009.
For the South Sudanese armed forces, it was a good initiative to take back home, according to Col. Dr Ajak Makor, the head of the contingent.
“Every time we are learning from the people and the Government of Rwanda,” said Makor, who is also a general surgeon.
“Like I have been telling people, we are a new country and we are drawing lessons, because we have come from a bitter background too, so it is always good that we learn from each other.
“This CIMIC activity, the civil-military relations, is one of the things that we have learned, that as much as we are a revolutionary army, now we are a defence army, we need to get more connected to our people.
“And this is what RDF has done, and that is what we have learned from them; that they are very close to their people, they are not just combatants, they are combatting diseases and taking care of the health and the welfare of their people,” he explained.
“We will use what we have had before and cement it and use the little resources we have to prosper, and that is how people learn from each other.”
The senior military officer underlined how important it is for countries to learn from others. “We (South Sudan) are eight years old. In the African context, everyone is your parent when you are growing in the neighbourhood. When I grew up in my village, everyone who was an adult was my parent, I did not need to have my father and my mother around me,” he clarified.
“So that is how we are feeling, we are not feeling alone,” he added.
“We will copy, we will do the CIMIC every year, they (RDF) have started with a day, upgraded it to week, now they are doing it for three months.
“We may start with three months, because our late leader, Dr John Garang, told us that ‘we do not need to start from scratch, we start from where people have stopped.’ If the RDF are doing CIMIC for three months, we will start from there,” he said.
The Director General of Nyagatare Hospital, Maj. Dr Ernest Munyemana, explained that the contingent worked for four days and managed to treat 519 patients, operating on 44 of them.
“In four days, that was a big number served,” he said, “it would take a longer time to treat such a number.”
“Moreover, patients were happy to be treated by doctors from South Sudan,” he added.
“Actually, what this programme helped us most with was strengthening relations with other countries,” Munyemana said.
The Kenyan contingent was at Rwamagana Provincial Hospital while the Tanzanian team was at Gahini Hospital in Kayonza. The Ugandan military medics were deployed to Nyamata Hospital in Bugesera District.
Besides deploying Rwandan military medics to the sites to work with the contingents, Rwanda Military Hospital provided free medicine to the hospitals.
In his speech during the national Liberation Day Celebrations at Amahoro National Stadium, President Kagame thanked the EAC contingents.
“Being Rwandan simply means being an African from a particular place. In that spirit, I salute the forces from the East African Community partners here with us today, who have been conducting medical outreach exercises,” said President Kagame.