Eastern African Forces Work Together in Historical Field Exercise
The multinational Eastern Africa Standby Force (EASF) Field Training Exercise began November 29, 2009 with an opening ceremony in Djibouti. The historical exercise brought approximately 1,500 troops, police and civilian staff together from 10 Eastern African countries working side-by-side for the first time.
"It's a major achievement to be together. Can we do this we ask, and the answer is, 'yes we can,'" said Peter Marwa, director of the Eastern Africa Standby Brigade Coordination Mechanism (EASBRICOM), in remarks to the audience at the ceremony.
During the ceremony, soldiers marched across parade grounds in front of distinguished guests and high-ranking military officials, each carrying their representative country's flag. The procession was led by Djibouti--the host country--followed by Burundi, Comoros, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Seychelles, Somalia and Uganda.
Major General Zakaria Cheikh Ibrahim, chief of general staff, Djibouti, acknowledged the troops as he walked the parade deck. The ceremony set the tone for the four days of training, which began the following day. EASBRICOM planned and organized the exercise throughout this past year.
"There have been long preparations with experts around the region for this gathering in Djibouti," Ibrahim said. "This exercise is for Africans planned by Africans to keep peace in the region. We wish for the exercise to be a success."
Djibouti Prime Minister Dileita Mohamed Dileita was a keynote speaker and officially "handed over" the mission to a representative of the standby force, which marked the conclusion of the ceremony. Distinguished guests included representatives from France, Britain and the United States. U.S. Army Brigadier General Chris Leins, deputy commander of Combined Joint Tasked Force - Horn of Africa, was also present.
The field training exercise is designed to develop multi-dimensional command, control and staff duties, operational capabilities, and broaden the region's peacekeeping capacity. EASBRICOM's plan is to have the EASF fully operational and ready for deployment by 2015 with an initial operational capability by 2010.
In the meantime, Marwa sees very specific milestones to be accomplished for this year. "Our number one objective is paramount. As a people from diverse countries, we must demonstrate an ability to practice together," he said. "We need to show that we can come together even though we've never worked together. Number two, we need to demonstrate an ability to move a large force to a mission area."
The Eastern African country of Tanzania is a member of the South African Development Community and is participating as an observer this year. Participants include about 900 military personnel and 50 police from 10 countries, including Tanzania.
For more information on EASBRICOM, www.easbrig.org.