MONDULI – Chiefs of Defence from partner states of the East African Community (EAC) have expressed optimism that the just concluded joint military exercise will be instrumental in diffusing any possible future tensions among them.
Dubbed “Ex Mlima Kilimanjaro”, the three-week exercise in Monduli, Tanzania saw 1,500 personnel of the regional armies training on how to collaborate in situations of conflict and disasters.
In separate interviews with The New Times, the military officers hailed the exercise, saying it has created a strong bond of friendship among their regional armies and equipped them to collectively tackle crisis situations.
Brigadier General Dr Ephraim Rurangwa, the head of Rwanda’s contingent at the exercise and Commandant of Nasho Training Academy, said that for partner states to contribute forces and deploy them in a sister country, is testimony of the existing good relations.
“If you consider how the troops worked together and the achievements registered, there is hope for greater cooperation even in worse situations,” Rurangwa said.
“If the conflicts occur in any country, the partner states would intervene but before we even intervene, we know the different causes of conflicts in the region,” he added.
During the exercise, the armies, basing on hypothetical situations got practical training on how to jointly quell disasters and fight terrorism.
Lt Gen. Ivan Koreta, Uganda’s Deputy Chief of Defence Forces described it as a foundation exercise that has led to great confidence building among regional forces.
“If you train together with your neighbour and he knows that you don’t have an extra weapon that could threaten them, all these become major confidence building measures,” the General said.
Kenya’s Deputy Chief of Defence Forces, Lt Gen Karangi said that it was a milestone in the eventual regional integration process of East Africa.
“Diffusion of tensions is a natural expection because we have come so far by having this exercise. We can’t continue to accommodate any form of that,” he said.
The “Ex Mlima Kilimanjaro exercise director, Tanzania’s Maj General WM Kisamba said that the exercise had tested their standard operating procedures and built capacity to jointly handle peace support operations, counter terrorism and disaster management situations.
“We tested all the armies to see if we can work together in crises and that was achieved,” Kisamba said.
According to the exercise’s overall media officer Major Paddy Ankunda, the regional armies treated 4,646 people while 27,716 goats, cows and sheep also received free treatment under the Civil Military Cooperation projects.