STUTTGART, GERMANY --
More than 300 service members from East African nations, Europe, and the U.S. are taking part in an exercise aimed at stifling violent extremist groups in the region such as Al-Shabaab.
The exercise, Eastern Accord, integrates forces from Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Burundi to improve logistics, intelligence, medical planning, humanitarian assistance response, and the conduct of operations in the event of regional crises. Ugandan police and civilian components are also incorporated into the scenarios to provide realistic responses to challenges faced in the region.
“Eastern Accord is a great opportunity to train with partner nations in Africa, but especially this time with militaries that have succeeded in extremely challenging environments like Somalia and South Sudan‚” said U.S. Marine Lt. Col. Keith R. Blakely, serving as the aviation task force commander for the exercise.
Emphasized throughout the exercise is the reality that crises stemming from violent extremist groups in one East African country are actually regional concerns, according to Gen. Edward Katumba Wamala, Chief of Defense Forces for Uganda.
“Nations must march in step if we are to effectively fight terrorism, violence, extremist organizations, cyber crimes, and human trafficking,” said Wamala.
Service members from Kenya, Europe, and the United States as well as representatives from international organizations are supporting the exercise in various roles serving as advisors, controllers, and observers. These participants are focused on improving processes, planning, and communication between the forces throughout the exercise.
“The exercise places great emphasis on protecting the civilian population, addressing issues such as the prevention of sexual violence and the recruitment of child soldiers,” said Jacques Lemay, the regional delegate to armed and security forces with the International Committee of the Red Cross. “These realistic scenarios represent the challenges faced here in Africa and allow us to discuss with the military how to address them.”
In Uganda, Exercise Eastern Accord is known as Maliza Ugaidi, which means “end terrorism” in Swahili, stressing regional security between regional countries to stifle violent extremism and gender-based violence. Since 2012, Eastern Accord has been a multinational exercise conducted annually and is hosted by a different participating country each year, according to the U.S. Africa Command website.