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East African countries edge closer to standby force

24 April 2014, 09:07

Kigali - The Eastern Africa Standby Force (EASF) could be ready by December this year to tackle threats of terrorism in the region, officials attending a regional meeting said Wednesday.

EASF member countries are Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Seychelles, Somalia and Sudan.

Meeting in Kigali on Wednesday, ministers of defense and army officials from the member countries attending a three-day meeting agreed on the need to operationalize the standby force.

James Kabarebe, Rwanda's Minister of Defense, told the meeting that organs are in place upon which countries should rely on for the prevention of conflicts, threat mitigation and for peace building.

"We still continue to face daunting challenges through terrorist attacks against our innocent civilians," he said, adding the activities of negative forces such as Rwandan rebels based in Congo, Al-Shabaab and others require collective action.

"The region has demonstrated commitment through EASF to address these issues; but we are not yet there. We still have a long way to go in terms of preparation. I urge all the chiefs to put final touches to all the operational requirements to achieving our full operating capability by December 2014," said Kabarebe.

According to Kabarebe, the regional force will also tackle challenges related to piracy, trans-border crimes and poaching.

Julius Karangi, the chairman of EASF and chief of the Kenyan Defense Forces, believes that the standby force will be operational within the specified timeline.

During the meeting, Rwanda will assume chairmanship of EASF from Kenya, with General Patrick Nyamvumba, the Chief of Defense Staff of Rwandan Defense Forces, taking over from Karangi.

The region has been trying to put in place a standby force consisting of military, police and civilian components to address security threats and challenges in the region since 2004.

 - Xinhua

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