Kizito Sikuka Correspondent
THE codename for the regional peacekeeping exercise underway in Malawi perfectly embodies what Africa is striving for — an integrated, united, prosperous and peaceful continent.
Exercise UMODZI, which in indigenous Malawian language chiChewa means “solidarity, partnership and oneness”, seeks to prepare military, police and civilians from the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) to effectively carry out their peacekeeping duties in Africa.
According to the Sadc Secretariat, Southern Africa is expected to assume its peacekeeping responsibilities at continental level under the African Standby Force (ASF) in January 2019.
The Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) is the current lead of the ASF roster.
The ASF is an important tool of the African peace and security architecture for the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts in the continent.
It is a multidisciplinary peacekeeping force consisting of military, police and civilian contingents deployed to respond swiftly to a crisis unhampered by any heavy political and instrumental burdens.
The ASF, which became fully operational in 2016 is based on standby arrangements among Africa’s five sub-regions, namely North Africa, East Africa, Central Africa, West Africa and Southern Africa.
In this regard, it was agreed that the various Regional Economic Communities or Regional Mechanisms be placed on a six-monthly rotational basis to lead the ASF.
Hence, the opportunity for Sadc to assume its roster duties with the ASF will begin on January 1 2019 until June 30 2019.
The Sadc Standby Force, or Brigade, was established through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the Sadc Heads of States and Government in Lusaka, Zambia in 2007.
The Sadc force operates as a tool of the Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation and receives its direction and guidance from the Sadc Committee of Chiefs of Defence staff and the Committee of Sadc Police Chiefs to provide peace-building efforts in the region.
These peace-building efforts include post-conflict disarmament and demobilisation and humanitarian assistance in conflict areas and areas impacted by major natural disasters such as drought and floods.
Training of personnel is mainly conducted by the Sadc Regional Peacekeeping Training Centre located in Harare, Zimbabwe, as well as other national peace-support training institutions.
In preparation to assume its peacekeeping duties at the continental level, Sadc has been involved in a number of military exercises, with the latest one being Exercise UMODZI.
Speaking at the launch of Exercise UMODZI, which runs from October 1-17 in Malawi, the Sadc Executive Secretary, Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, said the successful conduct of the exercise will ensure that conflict resolution capabilities of the region and the continent are enhanced in partial fulfilment of the AU Aspiration for Silencing the Guns by 2020.
Dr Tax said peace and stability are a key conduit for sustainable development and regional integration, hence there is need for all countries to exhibit the spirit of UMODZI, which are solidarity, partnership and oneness to address and manage any conflicts in Sadc and Africa.
“Peace and security remain one of the critical ingredients of sustainable socio-economic development of the Sadc region,” Dr Tax said, adding that Exercise UMODZI will go a long way in promoting stability in the region.
Participants at Exercise UMODZI that is taking place at the Malawi Armed Forces College in Salima will be exposed to various trainings including modern-day complexities associated with peacekeeping operations.
There will also be an exchange of ideas and learning between and among the various military, police and civilians from the different Member States.
This exposure and networking is critical since the ever-changing complexities in the nature of conflicts have transformed from the traditional peacekeeping of yesteryear to the multi-dimensional and hybrid missions of today.
In this regard, there is need for regional, continental and international peace support operations to be well coordinated, harmonised and integrated to ensure effective cohesion in the execution of different peacekeeping tasks.
During the exercise, participants will also have the opportunity to learning from a pool of experienced and eminent persons from Sadc, who will mentor and advise participants on how best to go about a given situation while evaluators will ensure objectivity in collection, analysis and reporting of observations and lessons learnt”.
Sadc has successfully held a number of military exercises in the region. These include the inaugural Blue Hungwe Exercise that was held in 1997 in Zimbabwe.
Other notable exercises are the Blue Crane in South Africa in 1999 and the Tanzanite held in Tanzania in 2002, as well as Exercise Thokgamo that was conducted in 2005 in Botswana and Exercise Golfinho in South Africa in 2009.