KIGALI - The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) of the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF), Lt. Gen. Charles Kayonga, yesterday urged member states Economic Community of Great Lakes Countries (CEPGL) to strengthen collaboration among.
Kayonga made the remarks while opening the second high-level defence and security session that brought together defence chiefs from the three member states: Rwanda Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“The historical, cultural, traditional and geographical ties between our three member states have proved it inevitable for us to work together as we have a common destiny., geography and other factors have proved that the only option we have is to work together,” Kayonga said.
He reminded participants that the meeting’s ultimate purpose is to consolidate peace and security by strengthening dialogue and military cooperation between member states.
“It is worth noting that CEPGL provides a very good regional framework for bringing our people together; leaders, parliamentarians, the youth, civil society, and most importantly, security organs, in a bid to develop a common path to the future. This is the essence of our being here today.”
The initial session of the Sub Committee on Defence and Security brought together Defence Chiefs, Chiefs of Police, Chiefs of Intelligence and Security Services, Heads of Immigration services, Heads of Military and Police intelligence from the three countries.
It will be followed, later, by a session of the Committee on Defence and Security that comprises Defence Ministers from the three countries.
Kayonga reminded the security chiefs that the region is still ridden with several armed groups, particularly the genocidal forces – ex-FAR/Interahamwe – and a myriad of other armed groups that are a common cause of concern.
He pointed out that the opportunistic armed groups and individuals exploit natural resources to destabilize the region and perpetuate humanitarian crises.
“We also see a new strategy being used by these negative forces and their international support networks aimed at distracting bona-fide efforts of rebuilding the region. This particularly takes the form of negative propaganda, mainly through fraudulent reports.”
According to Kayonga, while commendable efforts have been employed by individual CEPGL member states to counter this, collaboration will definitely add value.
The DRC land forces’ chief, Gen. Gabriel Hamisi and Burundi’s army chief, Maj. Gen. Godfrey Niyombare, told reporters that cooperation on defence and security matters, in the region, was critical.
“Congo is no dustbin for any rebel groups – and for us, as a member of CEPGL, we have resolved to work together with our neighbors to neutralize and repulse them,” noted Hamisi.
The Wednesday meeting reviewed the security situation in individual CEPGL states, and also discussed a proposed mutual defence protocol that will bind the Member States to cooperate in defence and security.