KIGALI - The East African Community’s national armies will today begin a three-week joint military exercise aimed at testing the capability of its rapid reaction forces.
The defence cooperation consisting of the five member states; Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda, agreed earlier in the year to form regional rapid reaction forces.
The EAC defence forces will hold the exercise in Arusha and Tanga regions of Tanzania.
The exercise codenamed “Ex-Mlima Kilimanjaro 2009” will be conducted under the auspice of the bloc’s Treaty and the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Co-operation in Defence.
The exercise is meant to test a Combined Joint Task Force of 1,556 personnel in peace support operations, counter terrorism and disaster management, all tailored to handle problems in a typical East African situation.
“The purpose of the exercise is to develop the capacity of the East African Community Armed Forces as well as other stakeholders in peace support and anti and counter terrorism operations, as well as disaster management and crisis response capability,” reads the EAC communiqué.
“The exercise is also expected to enhance mutual understanding within the forces of the region.”
“It will also involve provision of medical and veterinary services as well as some humanitarian activities at Arkatani and Musuberi villages in Monduli District, and Pangani District in Tanga Region.”
At some stage, members of the five armies will also take on renovation and re-construction of public infrastructures in Arusha and Tanga.
Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete is expected to officiate at the exercise’s opening today.
The bloc’s MoU on defence cooperation was signed in 1998, revised in 2001 and is now being upgraded into a Protocol.
Previously, three such major military exercises were held, the most recent (September 2006) on disaster management code-named “Ex Hot Springs” which held in Uganda.