Juma Mwapachu, the Secretary General of EAC, Thursday lectured officers of the Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) on what he called ‘key strategic challenges’ that confront the region and are hampering the integration process.
He singled out globalization, climate change, global terror, urbanization and demography as key strategic challenges that the bloc’s armies must understand, and help to address.
Giving an example of the recent global financial crisis and how it affected the region, Mwapachu told them that globalization is here to stay, and that it comes with a critical number of challenges “which we must be able to understand – and even be able to share.”
“We are in a global village, but we also want to be economically independent,. We don’t want to be made to suffer just because some countries have messed up,” he noted, referring to how “very vulnerable” the bloc is to external shocks.
About climate change, he pointed out drought in the region and the recent volcanic ash air chaos in Iceland and how it affected the region.
“What sort of measures are we putting in place to ensure that we are secure? It is a global phenomenon but we have to think strategically as a region”.
On global terror, he noted that it is no longer an issue of Islamic fanaticism, explaining that terrorism now falls into two dimensions , the kind experienced in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the “piracy dimension” on the East African coast.
Somali pirates’ activities are threatening Dar es Salaam and Mombasa– two major ports serving the bloc.
“If we are not careful, we are going to suffer. This is not a threat to Tanzania or Kenya. It is a threat for Rwanda and Burundi as well, and you, our commanders, must sit with your leaders and think of what we are going to do,” Mwapachu told the soldiers.
The EAC has been recognized as the fastest growing and most resilient economic bloc in Africa, he noted, and warned: “but our moving up will depend on how we address this piracy situation – our salvation is still the Indian Ocean.”
On issues to do with urbanization – rural-urban migration, he noted that in cities like Nairobi or Dar es Salaam, “life has become just unbearable.”
“One of the factors currently challenging our competitiveness is urbanization – Kigali is the cleanest of our cities, but watch out…learn from what you see in Nairobi and Dare s Salaam”.
Mwapachu arrived Wednesday for a four-day visit to familiarize himself with military facilities that have been availed by Rwanda to be utilized on a regional level. He is accompanied by the five EAC Defence liaison officers.