The EAC military games currently underway in the Burundian capital, Bujumbura, are expected to enhance the role of the military in the bloc’s integration process.
Militaries from the five partner states are competing in various sports; football, netball, marathon and basketball.
Opening the games earlier this week, Burundian President, Pierre Nkurunziza, said that more than ever, military cooperation in the bloc is paramount.
“The military are not only trained to pull the trigger, but to participate actively in sports and culture, to contribute to the construction of their countries, and rehabilitation of the society and the environment,” said Nkurunziza, who is also the Chair of the EAC Heads of State Summit.
The EAC Secretary General, Dr. Richard Sezibera, commended the implementation of the regional pact defence cooperation, under which the Military Sports and Cultural event is held.
He said that it was one of the most successful and exemplary programs in the EAC integration process.
Sezibera noted that the bloc bears great geo-political significance that imposes on partner states an enormous responsibility in as far as regional defence, security and stability are concerned.
“Whereas the East African Community has a developmental mission, we know that peace and security are the pre-requisites for social and economic development.
“With the rising threat of international terrorism and creeping instability in a multiplicity of hotspots around the world, the issues of defence and security have assumed a greater importance and significance in the agenda of nations, and indeed the agenda of groupings of nations such as ours”.
He reaffirmed that by cooperating in defence matters, EAC partner states would have neither reason nor cause to resort to violent conflict among them, and added that the Military Games bear symbolic significance of the aspirations to a competitive, stable and united East Africa.
Over 500 sportsmen and women from the bloc are taking part in the games. The Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) team of 90 is headed by Lt. Col. Dr. Jean Paul Bitega.
The events has been held on a rotational basis since 2005.
The first edition was held in Kampala, Uganda. Other editions have since been held in Nairobi/Kenya, Zanzibar/Tanzania, Kampala/Uganda, and Kigali.