Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya have signed a defense agreement meant to facilitate joint countering of security threats. The agreement was signed in Kigali by defense and security Ministers from the three countries after a one-day closed-door meeting.
There was a ministerial session on defense and security earlier on Tuesday in preparation for the signing.
It follows the three countries' commitment to implement several regional projects under a tripartite arrangement, during a summit between the three heads of state held in Kampala in June 2013. These include a single tourist visa, a single customs territory launched last year as well as a joint railway line project, oil pipeline, and use of national identity cards as travel documents which came into force on January 1.
The heads of state from the three countries also agreed to fast track an anti-threat pact by January 2014.
The agreement was signed by Rwanda's defense minister, James Kabarebe, alongside his Ugandan counterpart Crispus Kiyonga and Raychelle Omamo, the Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Defense.
The ministers of internal security, Musa Fazil Harerimana of Rwanda, Aronda Nyakairima of Uganda and David Kimaiyo, Kenya's Inspector General of Police also signed a security agreement.
The parties have previously conducted joint military exercises, but putting the defense cooperation on paper will allow them to conduct joint military operations against elements responsible for insecurity in the region.
Minister Kabarebe noted that mutual defense and security pacts will help uproot several armed groups responsible for insecurity in the region, citing Rwanda's Congo-based rebels FDLR, Uganda's ADF-NALU, Al-Shabab militants and several transnational criminal networks that require collective security frameworks.
"Cooperation between our countries has brought real advantages to our people. These advantages cannot be sustained unless there is peace and security and the pact signed today will seek to address the security challenges that may come with free movement of people," he said.
Kabarebe said there was a need to bolster the three countries to face global issues with a common foreign policy. "There is need to be proactive in addressing the slow pace of implementation," he said. "We must be inclusive and outward looking because dealing with the current global issues requires working together as a region."