The Tanzania People’s Defence Force (TPDF) will soon start training 1 000 members of the Somali National Army (SNA) including soldiers and officers as part of its contribution to the ongoing international security and stabilisation operation in the country.
Director of Communications in President Jakaya Kikwete’s office, Salva Rweyemamu, told Tanzanian media that the training programme will be conducted in terms of a revived military co-operation agreement signed between the two countries in 2012.
Rweyemamu said the TPDF is ready to start training batches of Somali soldiers as soon the government in Mogadishu concludes the selection of the first recruits.
“We prepared the training camps and as I am speaking everything is ready. We are waiting for them to select 1,000 soldiers to come here for the training. We want to train them to be professional soldiers so that they maintain their country’s security to allow citizens to engage in development matters,” he said.
Rweyeyamu said despite Tanzania’s commitment to stability in Somalia, no troops will be deployed to the war-torn Horn of Africa country because the Somalia and the African Union (AU) have never requested for troops while the Tanzanian government has no plans for a military commitment inside Somalia.
“There has never been such a request (for troops) from Somalia or the African Union. Remember there is a legitimate government in Somalia. Tanzania will not be in the war zone. Our interest, which is the interest of anyone with a like mind, is to see peace prevailing in Somalia. It is in everyone’s interests to restore peace in Somalia, including al-Shabaab’s.”
The TPDF’s Somali training programme was initially approved by President Kikwete in 2007 but was quickly stopped because Somali army officials, clan and militia leaders who controlled armed groups failed to agree on the selection of cadets to be trained.
Government and military officers with links to tribal and clan militias were accused of favouring their kin, a situation which led to fears that the training and incorporation of clan-based militias into the national army could foster divisions and destroy force cohesion in future.
Defence and National Service Hussein Mwinyi said the Somali training programme is a continuation of the TPDF role as a leading regional provider of training for combat and peacekeeping operations in East Africa as a contribution regional stability.
He said the TPDF has so far conducted numerous training programmes for military officers from Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and the Seychelles in East Africa.
Southern African troops and officers who have graduated in various disciplines from TPDF’s National Defence College training programmes have been drawn from Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Namibia.
Apart from training programmes, the TPDF has several foreign military deployments which include the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where the 1st Battalion has provided key backing for several operations against rebel groups in the east.
The TPDF is also engaged in United Nations peacekeeping operations in Sudan’s Darfur region, South Sudan and Lebanon.