By Penelope Paliani-Kamanga
LILONGWE - About 600 troops from SADC countries have converged at Malawi Armed Forces College (MAFCO) in Salima for a special training dubbed Umodzi.
The high-profile command post exercise has been code-named "Exercise Umodzi" for its desire to unite the bloc and has attracted all countries from SADC in preparation for their African Union standby peacekeeping lead duties, which it assumes between January and June next year.
Exercise director, Major General Alick Mhone, said at a press conference in Lilongwe that the exercise will among other things harmonise the SADC Standby Force (SF) preparatory procedures on what they should do, how they should work and how they should communicate when a crisis like wars and genocide come.
“The SF will be on standby in January, 2019 to be deployed anywhere in Africa where there will be need and this will assist them when they are deployed in the countries,” he said.
He said that the exercise focuses on a core undertaking testing mission leadership, command management, including critical staff complements.
Director of information and SADC national media coordinator for Malawi, Gideon Keith Munthali, said it was an honour for Malawi to be chosen to host this exercise as it is an important exercise that involves militaries from the SADC region.
He said the exercise will not only increase the feeling of security but will also increase the feeling of belonging to a big strong region.
“This training is different from other trainings as it may involve a heavy presence of military officers, military hardware as well as military planes flying in the country and with all those kind of things, people might begin to speculate or be afraid that something wrong is happening in the county but the public has to know that it is a normal military exercise that Malawi has been ordered to host,” said Munthali.
Internal communication and relations officer in the SADC Communication and PR Unit, Jocelyne Lukundula, said it was important to participate in this exercise because it has brought together citizens of the same region.
She said SADC was planning to do a documentary about this exercise and share it around the world in order to show people how ready the region was for the exercise.
The exercise would bring together members from the military, police, correctional services and civilian sectors from all SADC regions as part of preparations for the standby force and will also help inform citizens of the SADC region that their region owns a military force to intervene anytime.
The exercise will also test operational level structures of peace support operations (PSO) and to some extent validate actions of tactical levels in line with the strategic framework captured in the exercise mission.
The focus will also be on multidimensional mission level deployment of headquarters staff compromising all components, civilian, military and police in specific.
Zimbabwean troops were the first to arrive in Malawi and speaking during a send-off parade at One Commando Regiment last week, Commander Zimbabwe Defence Forces, General Philip Valerio Sibanda, urged the contingent to be good ambassadors.
Gen Sibanda was quoted in The Herald saying that the exercise would prepare the participants to adjust to modern-day complexities associated with peacekeeping operations.
"The aim of the command post exercise is to highlight to you some of the complexities associated with a modern-day peace support operations scenario. The desire for integrated training within the context of a SADC standby force enhances cohesion and reduces confusion within a multinational force in the event of a need for a rapid response,” he said.
He urged the participants to display flawless discipline during the exercise since their actions would impact on the whole country.
"The exercise you are going to participate in is a SADC regional level, hence it calls for a high standard of discipline, self-motivation, hard work, initiative and full individual commitment, as your performance will reflect on our nation's level of skills and knowledge preparedness," he said.
Gen Sibanda said joint training programmes among regional forces was paramount in achieving peacekeeping goals and that continued joint training amongst regional forces was, therefore, very necessary to achieve the desired goals of these missions.