The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has expressed its satisfaction with the regional grouping’s first military standby force exercise, codenamed Exercise Golfinho.
The exercise, which involved 12 nations in the region, started in February with a mapping exercise hosted by Angola on Africa’s south western coast. A command post exercise, in Mozambique on the south east coast of the continent, tested the mapping exercise in preparation for the operational exercise, The Southern Times reported.
Exercise Golfinho (”dolphin” in Portuguese) used 7,000 troops from the 12 nations at South Africa’s northern Cape training facility, Lohatla. Various capabilities were tested, with the accent on interoperability of the forces and the use of various languages.
All components, land, sea and air were deployed in the exercise. The naval component exercise was held at the port of Walvis Bay in Namibia, which lies between South Africa and Angola. This exercise involved the navies of South Africa, Namibia as well as Angola.
The exercise tested forces’ ability to intervene in humanitarian crises and to act as both peacekeepers and peacemakers. It was stressed that the standby brigade, one of five in Africa, is totally independent of outside help and Africa plans to rely only on its own forces should the need arise, Defenceweb reported. Rear Admiral Phillip Schöultz of the South African Navy told a media briefing at Lohatla base:
You will see no foreigners. This is a totally home-grown exercise from the writing of the scenarios onwards. That was a deliberate choice by SADC that we will do this exercise and if there are naysayers who say we will fail, we will prove them wrong.
At the end of the day SADC will stand or fall on its own ability, and no-one will be able to say we were a success because we were propped up. That’s very important.
Brigadier General Lawrence Smith admitted there were a few hitches along the way:
I’d be lying if I said it was without hitches; obviously there were a couple of challenges we faced on a daily basis that we have to iron out – but that’s the reason for this exercise … to make it as difficult as possible in order to expose these problem areas so we can deal with them.
The leader of the force’s police contingent, Zimbabwean senior assistant commissioner Faustino Mazango added that he had no doubt as a result of Golfinho that SADC can respond if called upon:
What we have proven is that at SADC we have the capability. It is possible, it is realistic, that we can deploy to any place in Africa or even outside to assist.
Officers at the media briefing said the standy force idea had arisen within the African Union (AU) after the Rwandan Genocide. Among other things, the five regional standy forces are designed to prevent such things in the future.