Terrorist groups in the region have been put on notice as the region brings closer the date for putting in place a standby force expected to be in place by December. The Eastern Africa Standby Force (EASF) had earlier been planned to be operational in December 2015, according to a roadmap drawn by the African Union.
During the 10th extraordinary meeting of the Council of Ministers of Defence and Security of 10-member group in Kigali last week, Defense Minister Gen. James Kabarebe, said that the "cowardly attacks in our countries will not be tolerated anymore."
The ministers' meeting followed the 9th extraordinary meeting of the region's chiefs of Defence and Security. Kabarebe said that while progress had been made, Africa continued to grapple with serious peace and security challenges such as intra-state conflicts, many of which are linked to governance problems. Others are organised crime and terrorism.
"The cowardly terror attacks in our countries such as, in Rwanda, by FDLR and RNC; the Al-Shabab attacks in Kenya including the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi last year, and in other locations this year; the Lugogo attack in Uganda; and the numerous attacks in Somalia are some examples still so fresh in our memories," Kabarebe said.
He said this calls for urgent full operational capability of EASF to be able to contain these threats and secure "our people."
The Kigali meeting held under the theme: "Eastern Africa Standby Force towards Full Operational Capability," was attended by Col Soren Knudsen, chairperson of the friends of EASF, an informal grouping of western and other state parties supporting the regional security initiative.
Col. Knudsen, the defense attaché in the embassy of Denmark in Nairobi, among others, re-affirmed his group's 'continued support.
"The wish by the member states of the EASF to fast track the full operational capability (FOC) to the end of 2014 is a major challenge but also an opportunity and the decision makes the next six to eight months of utmost importance," he said. For the past 10 years, the region has been preparing a multidimensional force by building capacity in the military, police and civilian components to address common security threats and challenges.
The meeting expressed a strong commitment to see to it that the EASF is in force by December. At the end of the meeting, Rwanda took over - from Kenya - the chair of the Council of Ministers of Defence and Security as well as the Committee of Eastern Africa Chiefs of Defence Staff, for one year.
Established in 2004 with the mandate to enhance regional peace and security, EASF draws its membership from 10 countries - Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda.