KIGALI - Defence liaison officers of the East African Community (EAC) Wednesday emphasized the importance of defence cooperation in realizing the bloc’s realistic integration.
The group of five, one from each partner state, arrived on Monday to conduct a sensitization program on the status of defence cooperation in the country.
They briefed Ministry of Defence (MINADEF) officials on the broad notion of the sub-region’s integration, defence sector cooperation and cross-cutting peace and security issues shortly after paying a courtesy call on the Chief of General Staff Gen. James Kabarebe at his offices.
“We think that in future, defence is going to play a pivotal role in the process of integration,” said Brig. Gen.
Norbert Kalimba, Rwanda’s EAC liaison officer shortly before calling on his counterparts to discuss their trip’s subject matter “It is our hope that the military will understand the EAC,” he said.
He explained that their role was mainly coordination with the EAC secretariat and defence headquarters back home, emphasizing that they also have professional researchers at the secretariat.
Kalimba was accompanied by Brig. Generals Fred Tolit (Uganda) and Salvatore Nahamana (Burundi) and Colonels Hilary Kioko (Kenya) and D.T. Matiku (Tanzania).
Leading the discussion on the bloc’s integration, Tolit pointed out that it was due to “wise leadership” nowadays that the countries were forging ahead.
He said lack of political will as a result of intra-community differences; greed and short sightedness by “some leaders” were some factors that led to the bloc’s collapse in the early 70s.
“Due to the small and economically unviable states, Africa continues to be marginalized,” he said.
He also stressed the need for taking advantage of “economies of scale” in the exploitation of development opportunities among other things.
Kenya’s Col. Kioko talked about the region’s defense sector mainly shading light on their mandate, areas of cooperation and achievements among others.
He said that partner states agreed to closely cooperate in defence affairs and that consultative committees were elected. Areas of defence cooperation include military training and joint operations among others.
“Partner states’ armed forces have successfully conducted joint command post exercises and developed EAC standing operation procedures,” Kioko said.
Among these, he mentioned peace support operations, technical assistance, research and development. He also underlined the achievements so far, mentioning ‘Operation Hudumisha Amani’, a bilateral joint disarmament exercise against cattle rustling in Uganda’s Karamoja, West Pokot and Turkana Kenya regions that is still in progress.
“The other thing achieved is the secure and direct communication between defence chiefs,” he said.
“Cooperation in defence is vital for the promotion and achievement of the vision, mission and objectives of the treaty,” Kioko underscored.
On issues to do with the peace and security protocol, Col. Matiku stated that partner states shall cooperate on matters of peace and security and collaborate with international and regional organizations to promote peace and stability in the region.
He said an EAC/AU Liaison Office has already been set up in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to this effect. The five-man team immediately set off for Burundi on the same exercise yesterday.