Eleven military officers and two senior government officials from the African nations of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda met with senior staff members at U.S. Africa Command to discuss areas of mutual interest and future partnerships, Nov. 6 at Kelley Barracks, U.S. Army Garrison in Stuttgart, Germany.
Collectively, these five nations form an organization known as the East African Community, or EAC.
The EAC website states, “The East African Community (EAC) is the regional intergovernmental organization of the Republics of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania, with its headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania.”
The website goes on to state that “the vision of EAC is a prosperous, competitive, secure, stable and politically united East Africa; and the mission is to widen and deepen economic, political, social and culture integration in order to improve the quality of life of the people of East Africa through increased competitiveness, value added production, trade and investments.”
Amb. Phillip Carter, Deputy to the Commander for Civil-Military Engagements, welcomed the EAC delegation, saying, “We’re happy you’ve traveled to Stuttgart to meet with us; your presence here will help re-energize the rapport between the U.S. and the EAC by establishing relationships that will play a key role as we partner with you in the region.”
During an afternoon of briefings from various AFRICOM staff, the delegation members learned how the command supports its partners on the continent through what Carter referred to as “a whole of government approach.” The information presented explained the various programs and engagements AFRICOM sponsors such as humanitarian programs, military exercises, emergency operations training, sector security, and the U.S. National Guard State Partnership Program.
“We welcome your input; sharing what we each know helps create a better picture of what the challenges and opportunities are,” said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Jody Daniels, Director for Intelligence and Knowledge Management, for AFRICOM.
The opportunity to meet face to face with people in the know and discuss what the regional challenges and opportunities are was evident in the lively and animated discussions generated as each brief was presented.
“The visit is very fruitful in that it enlightens on both sides as to what each partner is doing,” said Col. Walter Mukomah who is the Defence Liaison Officer to the EAC from Kenya.
“The East African Community has progressed so much that the militaries of East Africa are operating as one,” said Mukomah. “There has been an MOU, or memorandum of understanding, that has been signed and ratified by the five partner states so there are areas that, initially you could never have imagined - that the militaries are cooperating, but now they are doing that”
An invitation to the delegation to provide input, specifically on logistics issues, was extended. “We have a twice monthly video teleconference called the Africa Logistics Council,” said AFRICOM’s Director for Logistics, U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. James Vechery. “It’s an informal discussion on all things logistics and right now we have participation from the African Union, the UN, the World Food bank, and business leaders, among others. We’d like very much to have you join us.”
“I had dinner with the delegation and discussed ‘air sovereignty and security’ issues. We discussed ways the EAC could internally partner to increase air transport, thus increasing travel and commerce,” said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. David San Clemente, AFRICOM’s Deputy Director for Regional Engagements. “I think what they are trying to do is very exciting and could be a model for other regions on the continent.”
EAC as a unified block
“The meeting has been very important to us because it has brought together the five partner states to AFRICOM so that you can see us as a block and this will enhance cooperation in our region,” said Col. Godard Busingye, Chief of Legal Services from Uganda.
“What we want you to know is that the pace of the East African Community is very fast now, especially on the defence sector, said Col. Sam Omara, who serves as the Defence Liaison Officer to the EAC from Uganda.
“In the four areas of cooperation, which are joint training, joint operations, technical cooperation and sharing information, we’ve really moved ahead, Omara said. “We’ve had a lot of joint exercises, and the level of confidence building amongst the East African Community has really gone to a high level.”
One of the more vocal members of the delegation was Col. Mgisa Masha, Tanzania’s Defence Liaison Officer to the EAC.
When asked to offer his impressions of the meeting and the opportunity to interact face to face with AFRICOM staff, he stated, “This has been a very useful and informative trip; I am hoping that it will create a new chapter essentially in relations between the East African Community and the department of State, AFRICOM and the U.S. government as a whole.
“There’s been a long relationship for many years but it’s usually been on a bilateral basis,” said Masha. “We expect those bilateral connections to continue but also there’s the issue of working as a block with AFRICOM.
“The five partner states within East Africa are working together on various issues, not just defense but issues regarding the economy, governance, infrastructure, trade and so on,” said Masha. “And at least as of now our heads of state and our governments have moved on to a position toward creating some type of a political federation – it might be in the future but it is something that is being discussed and worked.
“And we’re looking at great unity economically and politically as well, so in that way… we’re looking for AFRICOM, and others, to be engaged with us on that level; that is quite important to us,” added Masha.