SADC Military Aviation Exercise Comes to Botswana
Botswana’ s northern blues are expected to be busy as about 40 different military aircrafts from Southern African Development Community (SADC) Members States will fly the skies for the SADC Multinational Aviation Exercise from June 20-25 this year. Eight hundred and eighty seven military personnel have been pledged to the country for the coming SADC Exercise.
The first SADC military aviation exercise, dubbed “Exercise Blue Okavango” is billed for the Okavango wetlands, and is sequel to Exercise Blue Zambezi of Angola held in 2013 and Exercise Blue Cluster of South Africa held in 2011.
The aviation exercises are an ideal product of the SADC Aviation Standing Committee which sought to bring solutions and preparedness to natural disasters member states are prone to. SADC member states are regularly challenged with issues like droughts, floods among others which the committee believes member states should be trained on how to be ready when time for such disaster comes. The exercise happens rotationally in all the 15 SADC countries after every two (2) years.
Though Botswana has not yet faced such serious cases of natural disasters, the country especially in its northern side within Ngamiland district occasionally face challenges of floods during rainy seasons. Studies also have indicated that Ngamiland is among the district affected by poverty, the district is reported to be the second poorest after Kgalagadi district.
Military personnel of all the 15 SADC member states being Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Botswana, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe this week converged in Botswana, Maun for the final planning conference for the exercise. The countries are finalising their plans for the exercise which among them includes ironing out and finalizing their manning equipments lists, exercise concept, the legal parameters through the status of force agreements.
The conference was the third and last held in Botswana after the initial planning conference was held in March 2015 followed by the main planning conference which was also held last month.
According to the Exercise Director, also Deputy Air Commander of Botswana Defence Force, Brigadier Innocent Phatshwane the exercise is envisaged to enhance the SADC Air Forces capacity to plan and conduct combined joint operations, humanitarian support and disaster relief initiatives.
“This exercise will also provide a golden opportunity for our air forces to develop mutual understanding and exchange of skills and knowledge between our personnel,’ Phatshwane added.
Phatshwane furthered that this is in tandem with the broader aims and objectives of SADC regarding attainment of regional peace, security and stability through cooperation by various member states.
It is understood that SADC multinational forces will also undertake medical outreach projects in Maun, Shakawe, Seronga and other surrounding villages; this according to the exercise Director is to show commitment in providing assistance to the local people.
During the five day operation of Exercise Blue Okavango according to BDF’s Col Segolane Sebenyane, Chairman of the Co-planning Team goods (foods and other necessary needs) will be airlifted and transported by aircrafts from Gaborone to Maun, where they will proceed to be transported to Shakawe, Gumare, Seronga and other surrounding villages.
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Malawi appeals for help over Cyclone Freddy at PAP
As of yesterday evening, the death toll from the Cyclone in Malawi had risen from the initially reported 190 to 225 in a short period of time, over 20 000 people have been displaced, and the worst of fears are yet to come as the fatalities continue to mount. This was reported by a Malawi Member of Parliament attending the Pan African Parliament session in Midrand, South Africa, Hon Steven Mikiya.
Mikiya was giving a statement on behalf of Malawi as the ongoing Pan African Parliament in South Africa.
Mikiya said the Cyclone has wreaked the most havoc in our country’s Southern Region. “The Southern Region, has been hardest hit with widespread heavy rains and strong winds. This caused a rapid rise in water levels and subsequent flooding. Meanwhile, power supply has been disrupted, roads blocked off and rendered impassable and mudslides have also been widely reported,” he said.
He made a special appeal to the PAP: “Where I come from, there is a parable which I would like to share with you which says, “mzako weniweni umamudziwa panthawi ya mavuto.” Simply put, a friend in need is a friend indeed or put loosely, a person who helps at a difficult time is a friend you can rely on.”
Mikiya continued: “Yes! Misfortune has knocked on our door and left in its wake a trail of death and destruction that may take years to fully recover from. However, amidst these difficulties, I have every reason to believe that sometimes when you are in a dark place and think you have been buried, you have actually been planted. My belief, Mr. President, arises out of my faith in this gathering and out of the conviction that it is not coincidental that Cyclone Freddy hit Malawi and Mozambique while the delegations of both countries are here.”
According to Mikiya, the level of destruction, the loss of life, property and the decimation of the entire fabric of established communities has been unprecedented. He noted that all this, is coming at a time when Malawi was starting to show signs of recovery from the deadly COVID-19 pandemic that also came hard on the heels of Cyclone Ana and Cyclone Gombe that left a similar trail of devastation and destruction in Malawi and neighbouring countries.
As of Sunday, this week, from the 12th of March, Malawi and Mozambique have been facing the devastating effects of Cyclone Freddy that made a landfall over Mozambique on Saturday the 11th and reached Malawi by Sunday the 12th of March.
The Malawi legislator said he has absolute faith in the Pan African Parliament, which he described as “a league of nations brought together by a shared ancestry, history, identity as well as our beloved continent which we inhabit”.
Meanwhile, Malawi President, Lazarus Chakwera, has declared a State of Disaster in the affected areas effectively appealing for local and international support for the affected families.
Mikiya appealed to the Pan African Parliament drawing “positive” inspiration from Europe which rallied around Turkey after the destructive earthquakes to bring the much-needed relief and humanitarian aid to the people of Turkey.
He said Africa should demonstrate to the world that the African Union and its Organs are not mere talk shows, but effective institutions which stand up when it matters most.
“Alone, it may take us a lifetime to fully recover, but together, in the Pan-Africanist spirit of Ubuntu, our lives and livelihoods will return to a semblance of normality in record time. This is the time to live by our operative mantra, “One Africa, One Voice.” Mikiya concluded.