EAC integration

EAC armed forces working together

A Field Training Exercise (FTX) of EAC Partner States’ Armed Forces was officially launched in Burundi, in Mwaro Province on 19 September 2014. The main objective is to practice together on how to maintain peace and security in the region.-By Lorraine Josiane Manishatse

Prosper Bazombanza waves the EAC flag at the opening ceremony  ©Iwacu

Prosper Bazombanza waves the EAC flag at the opening ceremony ©Iwacu

The launching ceremony is an elaborate affair. A parade of military officers march in front of high level guests, such as EAC ambassadors, chiefs of defense forces, military generals, senior military officers and the 1st Vice-President of the Republic of Burundi. Hundreds of soldiers sporting different color uniforms, holding their countries’ flags, are marching under common EAC command, while the military band plays the EAC anthem.
“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light”, says Burundi’s Minister of National Defense Pontien Gaciyubwenge, when the parade is over. This exercise is meant to enhance the spirit of comradeship between the armed forces. The EAC Partner States’ Armed Forces join hands in order to increase their capacity in disaster management, counter terrorism, counter maritime piracy and combat complex security challenges.

“We are training officers, soldiers, police men and civilian support staff (logisticians and health workers) on how to combat air threats and support operations as we send our soldiers to conflict areas, such as Somalia. We have to fight terrorists together. Al Shabaab has planned and executed attacks in Somalia, Kenya and Uganda, this requires a regional response”, explains Major General Cyprien Hakiza, FTX Commander. “Maritime piracy is common in the Indian Ocean. We should prepare to fight against it because it can also arise in lakes and rivers. Lastly, we should prepare for disaster management, since disaster can strike at any moment.”
The FTX Commander indicates that the main objective of the exercise called “Ushirikiano Imara 2014” (sustainable collaboration) is to enhance cooperation between EAC Partner States, to improve their interoperability and capacity to respond collectively to threats anywhere in the world. “This kind of exercise provides opportunities to exchange experiences and share connections that enrich our East African Community”, the Minister adds.

For Prosper Bazombanza, the 1st Vice-President of the Republic of Burundi, to participate in this exercise amplifies the deep and long conventional cooperation between the EAC armed forces. The military forces of the EAC Partner States Burundi, Kenya and Ugandan are all active in Somalia to help combating terrorism, but under command of their national Defense Ministries. To date, there is no coordinated EAC mission. The EAC started its Field Training Exercises in 2005, but has yet to provide a mandate for a combined EAC military operation.

The East African Community joint military exercises are conducted annually, in accordance with article II of the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Defense and in line with the decision of the Sectoral Council on cooperation in defense.
Under this Memorandum of Understanding, the EAC Partner States pursue an elaborate program of activities of confidence building among the armed forces. These activities include: joint operations, technical assistance, exchange of information, cultural exchanges and sport and games.