Rwandan military officers in Kampala
"Theirs are political, ours are military. Whatever happens on the other side, ours have to continue as planned."
MBUYA | The ongoing border tensions between Uganda and Rwanda and subsquent diplomatic fallout has not stopped military activities that involve the two countries from going ahead as planned.
A delegation of Rwandan military officers led by Major General Jean Jacques Mupenzi arrived in Uganda today [Tuesday] for a six-day Command Post Exercise (CPX).
Defence and Military spokesperson Brig Richard Karemire said the CPX exercise has attracted representatives from army, police and prisons from across six East Africa partner states (Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and hosts Uganda).
Gen Mupenzi is chairing the joint security exercise aimed at enhancing interoperability and building capacity of the East Africa forces and partner agencies in handling the region’s security challenges as a single block.
“This exercise will widen and deepen our integration we look forward to building a single force capable of planning and executing our mission together for the betterment of our region” said Gen Mupenzi.
He added that the East African region is facing security challenges and natural calamities that can be better addressed through concerted efforts by the region’s forces and other supporting agencies such as non-governmental organizations, hence the need to unite.
Eyebrows were raised around Bugolobi and Mbuya city suburbs on Tuesday morning when locals sighted Rwandan military officers at Silver Springs Hotel interacting with their regional counterparts over lunch.
With the border tensions that has seen Rwanda rigorously screen its citizens from coming to Uganda and openly accuse the government of harbouring and training Rwandan rebels in its territory, the presence of the Rwanda military officers in Kampala raised quite some eyebrows.
Foreign minister Sam Kutesa on Tuesday released a statement denying all accusations Rwanda has levelled on Uganda, saying the government maintains open-door policy to all low-abiding foreigners.
Given the level of accusations from Rwanda, one would have expected that it would stop its military officers from attending the joint exercise — which would have stamped the damage in action away from the verbal trade-off currently.
But one of the UPDF officers told a curious journalist during their lunch-break at the hotel that “Theirs are political, ours are military. Whatever happens on the other side, ours have to continue as planned.”
The joint meeting will review the exercise plan that was drawn in a concept development conference held in Arusha, Tanzania.
This year’s EAC Armed Forces CPX will be the 12th edition and is code named USHIRIKIANO IMARA 2019, and will focus on security challenges, peace support operations, disaster management, counter terrorism, and enhancing the state of readiness of EAC partner states in combating complex security challenges in the region among others.
The visiting delegations thanked the Uganda Government and the UPDF for the warm welcome and hospitality extended to them.
The command post exercise involves military and civil components, and its one of the joint activities by EAC Armed Forces aimed at enhancing the region cooperation in defence that are held on rotational basis among the member states, other activities include Field Training Exercises and games.
All EAC countries are represented with Burundi led by Col Gerald Nikunzi, Kenya by Col JB Ngera, Rwanda by Gen Jean Jacques Mupenzi, Tanzania by Brig Gen Marianus Mhangama, South Sudan by Brig Gen Nhiel Arou and Uganda by Maj Gen Sam Okiding.