Defence chiefs and security experts from the East African Community have stressed the need to actively involve the army in disaster management in the region.
The army has the capacity and resources to respond in a timely, effective and appropriate way to the needs of the affected population, the defence chiefs recommended.
This was at the ongoing four-day (26-29) workshop on Disaster Management and Crisis Response in the region, Imperial Botanical Hotel, Entebbe.
“When we talk about involving the army, we are not looking at the army in combat but the role of the army in a civil way. This includes providing protection to the survivors, carrying food, helping in resettlement and preventing the disaster from escalating,” Dr. Julius Omona, a consultant facilitating the workshop explained.
He added that the army has the capacity to respond both in terms of human and financial resource since the defence department throughout the five partner states is most favoured by the budget.
“We should not only use the army during war but also in development work. The army is easy to mobilize and available on short notice. When there is no war, they remain an idle resource,” he explained.
It was also noted at the workshop that the East African community is among the most affected regions in the world by natural and human induced disasters.
Natural disasters include: drought, famine, earthquakes and epidemics while human induced disasters include rampant civil strife causing a refugee problem in the region.
“We are emphasizing the role of the army because it is resourceful and well facilitated. They are good partners who are committed and can respond positively even on short notice,” Major. Jill Rutaremara, the RDF Army Spokesman and head of the Rwandan delegation at the workshop told The New Times in an interview.
“There is need for co-ordination and collaboration at the regional level to adequately respond to disasters and prevent the human induced disasters like civil wars, environmental degradation and rapid population growth common in the region. The occurrence of these disasters is borderless and this calls for a holistic approach,” Rutaremara underscored.
The workshop was organized by the East African Community secretariat to develop a regional holistic approach to disaster management and crisis response in the five partner states.