By Raymond Baguma
TEN regional countries have committed to raise a military fighting force of 5,000 troops under the Eastern Africa Standby Force (EASF) following a meeting in the Rwandan capital Kigali.
However, the specifics of the force expected to become operational by December this year, are still being finalised by defence ministers from the member countries, Rwandan newspaper New Times reported.
This was at the closure of the five-day meeting of defence chiefs. The meeting was preceded by sessions of security experts and their respective chiefs of defence staffs.
EASF draws membership from countries that include Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda. The standby force will be part of the African peace and security architecture.
Brig. Gen. Joseph Nzabamwita, the Rwandan military and defense spokesperson said the meeting secured commitment from members on the number of troops that would be on standby ready for deployment.
“Burundi contributed one battalion (850) of light infantry, Uganda pledges one motorised battalion, Ethiopia one motorised battalion and Rwanda one motorised battalion, and then Kenya, one mechanised battalion,” Nzabamwita was quoted by New Times newspaper.
“All these battalions have their integral equipment and they are of a strength of 850 (personnel) each. Other than these five countries that contributed battalions, we also have other countries that made their contributions like Comoros,” Nzabamwita added.
The force is expected to become operational by December this year in order to respond to emerging security challenges in the region.
The standby force will not be based in a particular country because every member state will host and sustain their contingent and deploy quickly when required.
Also, a country will be expected to commit, equip and finance their contingents; and the troops would periodically meet for joint military training in any member state.