Exercise Blue Kunene gets underway in Namibia

By Lieutenant Colonel Ntsikie Mantshongo
Directorate Corporate Staff Services(from SAAF)

The Namibian Defence Minister, Penda ya Ndakolo officially opened Exercise Blue Kunene at Oshakati Stadium in the Oshana Region on 24 August 2017.

According to the Minister, who welcomed all participating countries, the humanitarian exercise, is a rotational one, in which all 15 SADC member states take turns to host, after every two years. The one currently underway  in the northern parts of Namibia aims to “sharpen the rapid deployment of Southern African Development Community (SADC) Air Forces, as part of the SADC Standby Force, for rapid deployment in cases of humanitarian crises in the region and beyond. Moreover, the Exercise is conducted under the auspices of the Standing Aviation Committee (SAC) of the SADC-Inter State Defence and Security Committee (ISDSC). It conforms with Article 13 of the African Union, Protocol Relating to the Establishment of the Peace and Security Council which highlights the functional aspects of the African Standby Force as being the facilitator of humanitarian assistance to alleviate suffering of civilian population in conflict areas and support efforts to address major natural disasters.

Participating countries in on particular order include, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Angola, Tanzania, Zimbabwe. Lesotho and Mozambique are reportedly joining the exercise at an undisclosed period.

The minister emphasised that the exercise has no hostile intention or hidden agenda, it is focussing on amongst others at “Building regional capability that will eventually strengthen African Standby Force. To this effect, the Air Force, Air Arms and Wings have assembled here today, as a single unit, to exercise and prepare for such eventualities and to enhance the already high level of interconnectedness and interoperability in preparation for rapid deployment capability that has overtime been developed through other Exercises like Exercise Blue Cluster, hosted by the Republic of South Africa in 2011, Exercise Blue Zambezi hosted by Republic of Angola in 2013 and recently, Exercise Blue Okavango in Botswana in 2015. It is important to note that Namibian Air Force has successfully participated in all of those military aviation exercises.”

By the end of this Exercise, it is expected that operational lessons being learnt can be utilized for future exercises, and most importantly, a SADC Strategy Airlift Concept can be developed. In the next 10 days or so, this Exercises is expected to distribute over 400 tons of food aid in the Kunene region, in the constituency of Opuwo Rural, Epupa and Sesfontein, this will be done in conjuction with the office of the Prime Minister, Disaster Risk Management Unit.

Additionally, Medical outreach programmes will be conducted in the form of screening and the treatment of various ailments, that will be administered around the Kunene region. With over a 1000 military personnel, the general communities are advised to remain calm and afford the participants their full support.” 

He further thanked stakeholders who rendered their support in making the Exercise come to life, singling out different contingent commanders and other Namibian local ministries.

The Republic of South Africa Blue Kunene Contingent Commander, and the Officer Commanding 28 Squadron, Col Mohlabane Moatshe said that he has been offered both fixed wing and rotary aircraft to deal with all missions as stipulated by the Minister. He further acknowledged the assistance that will be rendered by the members of the South African Military health Service who will deal specifically with the medical public outreach programme as planned.

The exercise is now entering a stage of preparation for the bigger airlift of various supplies to the local people in the form of the Command Post Exercise.


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