A closing ceremony in Grand Bara, Djibouti capped off a four-day field training exercise conducted by the newly forged Eastern African Standby Force (EASF), in December 2009.
Ten countries of the Eastern African Brigade worked together throughout the week to practice responding to simulated incidents.
“We want to convey this message to the fellow heads of states–the region is now standing and ready to go,” said Peter Marwa, director of the Eastern Africa Standby Brigade Coordination Mechanism during remarks at the closing ceremony.
President of the Republic of Djibouti, Ismail Omar Guelleh, closing ceremony guest of honour, acknowledged the exercise was a major milestone. “A united Africa and African defense has seemed a concept for a long time,” he said. “However, it is no longer a concept. It is vital for us Africans to be able to successfully assist our own and be responsible in case of crises.”
Army camps from Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Seychelles, Somalia and Uganda participated in training scenarios that included armed groups manning illegal vehicle check points, hijacked vehicles, blocked roadways, and other incidents. Their goal was to learn how to work together to bring stability and peace during unstable situations and to overcome logistical obstacles.
Police and civilian specialists also participated in the scenarios and all were evaluated on their responses.
“I think [the exercise] is a good challenge for the region. It brings many benefits in terms of the unity and the cohesion of the region, said General Salimou Oumri, chair of Eastern Africa Defence Staff and Chief of Defence Staff of Comoros. “I think things went very smoothly beyond our expectations.”
At the closing ceremony, there were many distinguished visitors. In addition to Guelleh, Marwa, and Oumri, Vice Admiral Robert T. Moeller, US Africa Command (AFRICOM) deputy to the commander for military operations, and Major General Zakaria Cheikh Ibrahim, chief of general staff, Djibouti, attended the event.
Marwa recognized the international community for its support in making the exercise a success. “Our exercise had a huge measure of informational input from our partnership, which was able to contribute to the success of this exercise, the United States, France, Germany, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Japan and the United Kingdom,” said Marwa.
“To all these countries who have contributed to the success of the exercise, I say thank you very much.”
According to EASF literature, EASBRICOM is undertaking this multi-national, multi-dimensional integrated mission and operations approach as directed by the March 2008 Policy Organs Meeting in Kampala, Uganda. The exercise was another step in the process for Eastern Africa Standby Brigade Coordination Mechanism to develop a fully operational EASF for deployment by 2015.
Guelleh summarized the exercise with a hopeful future for the Eastern Africa region.
“I congratulate you all, Eastern Africa Standby Force; there is no doubt, that thanks to your commitment and experiences in the field, you will play a positive role for the region,” he said.