EAC states, U.S. launches joint military exercise in northern Uganda

14:00, October 17, 2009      

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Military forces from the five East African countries and the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) on Friday started a 10-day joint military exercise here aimed at strengthen cooperation among countries during complex humanitarian emergencies.

Chrispus Kiyonga, Uganda's Defense Minister, while opening the exercise codenamed "Natural Fire 10" at Pajimo Military Barracks said the exercise will equip the over 1,200 troops from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and U.S. with skills of responding to complex humanitarian emergencies like earthquakes, floods, land slides among others.

Beatrice Kiraso, the East African Community (EAC) Deputy Secretary General in charge of Political Federation, said the exercise will enhance the EAC cooperation and federation in the region.

"This is a big exercise as we move towards the political federation. This will enhance the capacity of the East African armies in handling humanitarian disasters and emergencies," she said.

Jerry Lanier, U.S. ambassador to Uganda, said that the U.S. will continue to cooperate with East African countries in building peace and security in the region.

The joint exercise will also test the ability of having multinational command and control systems within the EAC, between member states, and between the partner states and the U.S. in responding to disasters.

The exercise which will also simultaneously be held in Kampala and Entebbe comes on the heels of "Ex-Mlima Kilimanjaro" Field Training Exercise, conducted last month in Tanzania on the themes of counter terrorism, peace support operations and disaster management.

It is one of the many joint military drills EAC member countries have carried out in partnership with the U.S. to deepen their defense cooperation.

According to security experts, defense cooperation among the member states is critical in addressing security threats that are trans-boundary like the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.

The drill comes shortly after defense experts meeting in the capital Kampala last week recommended that the region should have a force capable for the collective protection of the EAC's land, rivers, lakes and ocean resources as well as that of the unified airspace.

Source: Xinhua
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