Good Tidings on Lake Malawi

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Some 120 naval and military personnel from eight Southern African Development Community (SADC) nations have taken part in Exercise Good Tidings, a riverine undertaking on Lake Malawi.

The SA Navy website reports the SADC Standing Maritime Committee (SMC) decided early this year that the maritime interdiction exercise should take place at Senga Bay on Lake Malawi during the course of 2011. Malawi was to host this exercise with South Africa providing assistance in planning and coordination, Captain (SAN) DG Jamieson reported.

The South African National Defence Force sent 20 participants including divers and Maritime Reaction Squadron personnel. Malawi and Tanzania sent similarly sized forces while Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Botswana all sent divers. There were also a large number of observers from other SADC countries including Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique.

The SANDF personnel and all their equipment (including 2 boats) were flown into and out of the area by a SAAF C130BZ. The Times newspaper of Malawi added that the exercise lasted from September 19 to 30.

The endeavour predominantly focused on visit, boarding, search and seizure (VBSS) operations as well as diving. “The Great Lakes of Africa present very real security challenges as they can be and often are used as a conduit for smuggling and human trafficking as well as illegal migration,” Jamieson said.

He added that a lesson was how quickly and severely “sea states” could deteriorate on the lake. The rift valley lake is over 550km long and is up to 700m deep in parts. The water is extremely important to the economies of the countries that border it (Mozambique, Tanzania and Malawi) as it is an important source of food, water, and transport means. It also attracts a large number of tourists.

Speaking at Malawi Forces College in Salima at the end of the exercise, John Msonthi, Director of Personnel in the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) said the region has always faced numerous criminal activities which affect regional stability and development. “As a region, we are always faced with numerous criminal activities which are affecting regional stability and development. Key among such criminal activities is the new trend of piracy which seem to have taken the international community by surprise and ill-prepared to handle it,” Msonthi said.

Good Tidings came shortly after a SADC air forces exercise, Blue Cluster, in northern provinces of South Arica.



Pic: The combined SADC task team carrying out search and seizure operation.