The East African Community (EAC) Secretary General, Juma Mwapachu, has praised the cooperation among regional armies, emphasizing their importance to regional integration.
Mwapachu made the remarks while inspecting the ongoing region’s first ever military Field Training Exercise being held in Monduli, Tanzania.
“When our people see our militaries working together like this, they have hope that we are together,” the EAC chief said, shortly after touring a rural clinic that was recently equipped by the forces as part of the training on disaster management preparedness.
All member states save for Burundi contributed 333 personnel to the operation code named “Ex-Mlima Kilimanjaro 2009” which is due to conclude this week.
The EAC official said that it is only in East Africa that regional forces meet and carry out exercises not meant necessarily to quell any crisis- but for preparedness.
“This does not take place anywhere in Africa, save for ECOWAS. Even those forces in EACOWAS only meet when there is a crisis. Ours is for readiness and cooperation,” he emphasized.
On whether the regional bloc envisages forming a joint military force in future, the EAC boss simply responded : “In terms of the future, why not?”
The 1,500 strong force is engaged in road construction, building clinics and classroom blocks as well as offering treatment to sick people and animals.
The joint force’s media officer Major Paddy Ankunda (Uganda) said that the armies also contributed 300 tonnes of food supplies, currently being distributed to needy Tanzanian communities.
“These supplies were made possible by financial contributions from all the five partner states. We are happy that through this exercise, we are deepening friendship and promoting defence harmony,” Ankunda said.
The joint exercise is being conducted under the EAC Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Co-operation in Defence Matters, which also provides for EAC partner states’ armies to offer mutual assistance in disaster management and technical co-operation.