A regional body consisting of ten countries has reiterated that a standby force will be ready by December this year to tackle threats of terrorism facing the region.
The Eastern Africa Standby Force (EASF) comprises Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Seychelles, Somalia and Sudan.
Ministers of defence and chiefs of defence forces from the member countries convened in Kigali yesterday for a three-day meeting and agreed to expedite plans to operationalise the standby force.
"We have put in place organs upon which we should rely on for prevention of conflicts, threat mitigation and peace building. We still continue to face daunting challenges of terrorist attacks against our civilians, activities of negative forces such as FDLR, Al-shabaab and ADF, among others," James Kabarebe, the Minister for Defence told the meeting.
"The region has demonstrated commitment through EASF to address various security issues but we are not yet there. We still have a long way to go in terms of preparation. I urge all the chiefs of staff to put final touches to all the operational requirements to achieve our full operating capability by December 2014," he added.
Kabarebe said the regional force will also tackle challenges related to piracy, trans-border crimes and poaching.
Gen. Julius Karangi, the chairperson of EASF and Chief of General Staff of the Kenyan Defence Forces, said he is optimistic that the standby force will be operational within the specified timeline.
"When we met early this year in Nairobi, we reviewed previous activities and considered what we should do this year in terms of strategic management and fast-tracking of the regional standby force," he said.
"All partner states are committed to making it a viable tool for regional peace and security. Our progress is manifested in the fully integrated structures but we must be bold enough to accept that we haven't yet got to where we want to be," Karangi added.
At the meeting, Rwanda is expected to assume chairmanship of EASF from Kenya, through General Patrick Nyamvumba, the Chief of Defence Staff of Rwandan Defence Forces.
Since 2004, the region has tried to put in place a standby force consisting of military, police and civilian components to address security threats and challenges accross the region.