Senior officers from the Kenyan and Ugandan militaries met in Nairobi this week to discuss ways to improve defence relations between the two countries. This meeting was a crucial step towards furthering their collaboration, allowing the two nations to work together in order to better protect their citizens and interests.
The two-day joint defence committee (JDC) meeting is a follow-up of a defence cooperation agreement entered by the two African Great Lakes countries last year, where UPDF and representatives from the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) agreed to cooperate in strengthening further existing peace and stability in the two countries. This was at Skyz Hotel Kampala during the closure of the joint defence committee meeting between UPDF and KDF.
The two days (October 26-27 ) meeting, had participants discuss pertinent issues that need attention to strengthen bilateral cooperation in defence and security between Kenya and their host Uganda.
The October 2022 meeting saw both sides pledge to strengthen their collective defence capabilities by collaborating on joint military exercises and sharing intelligence. In addition, the two nations agreed to cooperate in order to ensure that their borders and military installations are secure from any potential threats.
While this recent meeting was attended by officers from Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) and Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF). It was co-chaired by Brigadier Richard Mwanzia, Chief Strategic Plans and Policy (SP&P) and his Ugandan counterpart Brigadier General Joseph Balikudembe.
Mwanzia stressed the importance of a robust regional security mechanism to coordinate and strengthen the partnership between the neighbouring militaries.
Balikudembe, thanked the Kenyan delegation for espousing a cordial relationship with Uganda, adding working together strengthened an existing good relationship between the two countries. On the bilateral defence co-operation agreement he recognised it as the legal instrument binding the nations to cooperate and address common strategic security interests.
During the deliberations, consideration was given to alleviating food insecurity in shared border areas. Climate change has rendered communities “perennially food insecure and limited sources of livelihood” according to a KDF statement. The resource scarcity forced some to migrate in search of pasture and water.
The gathering deliberated on establishing social and economic programmes aimed at integrating border communities. “The meeting underscored continued cooperation increases understanding as to how both Uganda and Kenya may use military forces in crisis and peacetime to deliver stability and prosperity as well as shape a defence culture.
Brigadier General Michael Nyarwa, Colonel David Lumumba from UPDF and their KDF counterparts Chief of Operations Brigadier Seif Rashid; Chief of Research, Doctrine, Training and Evaluation (RD & TE) Brigadier Stephen Huria and others were also present.
Uganda has been strengthening its strategic relations with its allies over the past few years. Last year, Egypt and Uganda strengthened their defence and training agreement. Both parties pledged to build on joint training programs, enhancing cooperation in the defence and security fields as well as combating terrorism.
Egypt recently offered several training slots to Uganda’s military undergoing different courses in the Arab Republic of Egypt.
The Ugandan Ministry of Defense spokesperson lieutenant Colonel Del Akiiki was also in attendance.
Likewise, during the same period, Uganda and Israel in September signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on defence amid growing criticism in the country over Israel’s hacking software. The signing ceremony took place in the capital Kampala.
Uganda was represented by Rosette Byengoma, while Israel by Asaf Dvir. “On behalf of the Israel Ministry of Defense (ISMOD), we would like to transfer our appreciation to the government of Uganda, UPDF, for this process and also for the continued relationship in the future,” Dvir said. “Israel has helped us to strengthen our different branches of the military, more especially in the Air force and Air Defense,” Byengoma said.
Meanwhile, Uganda has increased its defence spending to better cope with the current security realities in East Africa. The new funding will help the country step up to its neighbour and regional rival Kenya, as widespread conflict and terrorism threat in East Africa is influencing both countries’ spending, and pushing them to an arms race.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Uganda’s military expenditure reached Sh123.1 billion ($1.066 billion) last year, an 8.3 per cent increase from Sh113.7 billion ($984.7 million) in 2020.