Shared Accord 2019 opens in Rwanda
More than 1,000 participants from three continents and 26 countries, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other partner organizations gathered for the opening ceremony of exercise Shared Accord 2019 at the Gabiro Training Center in Gabiro... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

"I think it's very exciting," said Brig. Gen. Lapthe C. Flora, the U.S. Army Africa deputy commanding general. "Last year we had the medical exercise and command post exercise. This year we added the field training exercise, which has nearly quadrupled the manpower. Not only that, but also the participating countries has increased to over two dozen."

Shared Accord 2019, which is scheduled to run until Aug. 28, is focused on bringing together U.S. and Rwandan forces, African partner militaries, allies and international organizations to increase readiness, interoperability, and partnership building between participating nations for peacekeeping operations in the Central African Republic.

"The theme for this exercise is partnership for peace and stability," Flora said during his opening remarks. "We know there cannot be peace and stability without strong partnerships. By coming together, we are strengthening our partnerships and with that strength we become more synchronized and effective to achieve peace and stability."

The exercise consists of academic classes, discussion-based practical exercises, engineering projects, live fire training, and a command post exercise focusing on a United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) peacekeeping scenario.

"It's an enormous opportunity," said Rwanda Defense Force Brig. Gen John Baptiste Ngiruwonsanga, the exercise co-director. "We have a number of forces from Africa, the U.S. and Europe, so this is a very big experience. In terms of the ideas we get to exchange and the experience of meeting servicemen and officers from different continents. It really is enormous."

MINUSCA troop contributing nations and fellow partner nations will spend the next 15 days working together through relevant scenarios to enhance staff capabilities to respond to United Nations and African Union peacekeeping operations, exercise regional interoperability and build stronger partnerships.

The MINUSCA mission began April 10, 2014, to protect Central African Republic civilians under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter.

The host, Rwanda is one of the world's largest contributors of peacekeepers and one of the first nations to deploy peacekeepers to the Central African Republic in 2014. Currently, the RDF maintains one infantry battalion and a level-two hospital under MINUSCA.

"When we talk about partnership, it benefits both sides," Flora said. "It benefits the United States just as much as it benefits our partners, not only Rwanda, but also our other partner nations. It's about building enduring relationships, and it's great to come back year after year. If we continue to do that, our relationships will continue to mature."