By Steven Candia
A top notch meeting to address region security issues got under in Kampala; with a warning about the changing nature of conflicts and the need for the armies adopt new methods of dealing with them.
In a speech read on his behalf by state minister for defense Gen. Jeje Odong, the first deputy Premier Eriya Kategaya said conflicts in the region have become asymmetrical and thus the need for new strategies to quickly respond and deal with them.
“Such security threats are mainly orchestrated by non-state actors such as rebels and extremist terrorist organizations such as the Al-Shabaab, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and the Lord’s Resistance Army… as well as the M23 rebel outfit that marauds the Eastern DRC,” he said at the Lake Victoria Serena Resort.
Kategaya who is also the minister of East African Community Affairs also noted that security challenges in the region have manifested over the ownership, control and use of natural resources singling out pastureland and water.
He pointed out that the discovery of petroleum and gas within the Eastern and Horn of Africa region has heightened tensions among member states and could explode into a fully blown war if not properly managed, the first deputy premier Eriya Kategaya has warned.
The tensions, he said, were over ownership of the resource and these are visible in the Albertine valley straddling Uganda and the DRC as well as on Lake Nyasa along the Tanzania/ Malawi border. All the three East African countries–Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania have lately discovered oil reserves.
“The implications of such tensions on the peace and security of our regions is a matter of concern and, if left unresolved could escalate into full blown interstate conflicts,” warned at the opening of a regional military meeting held at the Lake Victoria Serena Resort. He however noted that some measures have already been taken to address the issues.
The three day meeting which brought together security chiefs, members of the academia and civil society organizations (CSO) from the region is organized by Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE) and the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) in collaboration with the UPDF. It was on regional peace and security challenges in the region. Delegates from Israel, Nigeria and the USA also attended.
Speaking on the role of the regional integration in fostering peace and security in East Africa added that the emerging importance of oil to regional economy has presented addition challenges by way of managing interests of foreign governments and global companies which have yes on the resource.
He singled out the other security challenges food and land and the geo political position of the region in the context of maritime piracy and terrorism. However, in the ensuing discussion delegates expressed concern over the political pace of integration, saying it was too slow.
Dr. Arthur Bainomugisha, the ACODE director of research said the discussion was timely and would help shape the military capabilities in region to respond to the threats and challenges.