KIGALI - The Secretary General of the East African Community (EAC), Juma Mwapachu, arrived in the country last evening to familiarize himself with Rwandan military facilities that can be also be utilized on a regional level.
According to the Ministry of Defence, Mwapachu is accompanied by five EAC Defence liaison officers.
Among the facilities that Mwapachu is expected to visit is Gako Military Academy, Horizon Construction Company, Utexrwa, and the National University of Rwanda.
Speaking to The New Times, Army and Defence Spokesman, Lt. Col. Jill Rutaremara, said that another team of experts will conduct an assessment on the facilities.
“He is not inspecting but actually familiarizing himself with technical and training institutions that have been availed by the government of Rwanda for joint utilization,”
“In the EAC Memorandum of Understanding on defence cooperation, one of the areas is technical assistance. Countries will avail facilities for shared utilization and that is why you see Gako being made available to cadets from EAC partner states.”
Outlining the bloc’s strategic direction for 2010 recently, Mwapachu said that the bloc plans to strengthen defence cooperation.
Increasing EAC’s cooperation in defence involves upgrading the bloc’s current MoU on defence matters into a legally binding protocol and, this process is ongoing. A draft protocol has been prepared.
In 2009, the bloc’s efforts to foster defence cooperation included joint military exercises by partner states and the first ever EAC Peace and Security Conference held in Kampala, Uganda.
It also staged its first ever military Field Training Exercise, in Tanzania. All member states, save for Burundi, contributed 333 personnel to the operation code named “Ex-Mlima Kilimanjaro 2009.”
The exercise gauged the combined forces’ capability to respond to disasters. Also critical was sharing knowledge on the region’s challenges; in civil-military cooperation activities for peace support operations, counter-terrorism and disaster management, among others.