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East African defence ministers agree on defence cooperation

KAMPALA (Xinhua) -- Defense ministers from the east African countries meeting in Uganda on Friday agreed to strengthen regional cooperation in defense affairs, implementation of protocols on security and peace to deal with insecurity and conflict that continues to plague the region.

Adolf Mwesige, Uganda’s minister of defense and veteran affairs, told sector ministers and experts that strengthened cooperation in defense affairs will promote lasting peace, security and stability in the six partner states of the East African Community (EAC).

EAC brings together Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, South Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi.

“The EAC defense sector needs all the support necessary to strengthen its capacity in different areas given that it is on the right path to deal with insecurity in our region,” said Mwesige while closing the five-day meeting.

“I urge you to facilitate this support and where a need arises, our principals [heads of states] be put in the know,” he said.

The minister said the continued insecurity and conflict in South Sudan, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Somalia continues to plague the region.

He said the ongoing conflict in South Sudan pitting troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar, poses a serious concern in the region as thousands of civilians continue to lose their lives and their livelihoods while attempting to flee for safety.

As of October 2017, the number of South Sudan refugees fleeing the country’s civil war into neighbouring countries was estimated at 2,073,105, according to the UN figures. 

“Conflict is at our door step as a region. Being ambassadors of peace, this is the correct time to review the political and cultural dynamics that leads to various forms of conflict in the region,” said Mwesige.

“We need to re-align our strategies to emerging conflict situations and scenarios. This includes enhancing the early warning systems, which may help prevent conflict and identify mechanism and interventions at various stages,” he said.

Amb. Liberat Mfumukeko, the Secretary General of the EAC said security remains one of the primary concerns for the region given the prevailing situation in Somalia.

Militant group Al Shabaab continues to carryout attacks on military bases and civilians in the Horn of Africa country.

“I am happy to note that through your cooperation we have been able to minimize external threats of Al Shabaab and through your interventions, the group have been disenfranchised and normalcy is slowly coming back in that country,” said Mfumukeko.

Mfumukeko said the defense sector has recorded significant progress in widening and deepening cooperation by having all the partner states ratifying the protocol on cooperation in defense affairs.

“This step brings the community closer to the fulfillment of the long awaited ambition of having a mutual defense pact,” said Mfumukeko.

The five-day meeting that kicked off on Monday in the Ugandan capital, Kampala aimed to further the peace and security strategy that was adopted in November 2006 and the protocol on peace and security.

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