By: Sharon Meriton-Jean
A high level delegation from the Tanzania Peoples‚Äô Defence Forces (TPDF), headed by Colonel Regnald Kasmir Kapinga, visited Seychelles last week for meetings with the Seychelles Air Force (SAF) as part of a regional exchange programme organized by the European Union‚Äôs mission EUCAP Nestor.
According to a press statement from EUCAP Nestor, the exchange is the first of its kind between the Seychelles and Tanzanian air forces, where they assessed¬† air¬† surveillance capability of the SAF that has been developed in the past year in close cooperation with EUCAP Nestor.
Air patrolling, counter-piracy, search and rescue, medical evacuations and VIP transport were subjects of discussion.
Stories of fishermen lost at sea or boats in distress are not uncommon in Seychelles, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean with over 1.3 million square kilometres of ocean, however, recently greater threats, that of piracy or illegal fishing have been affecting fisheries, the second most important economic sector of the country which is made up of just over 90,000 people.
The Seychelles Air Force has played an integral role in air surveillance of the vast maritime zone, together with international partners such as India and the EU, in the fight against piracy, together with the Seychelles Coast Guard and international maritime forces in the region.
During his visit, Colonel Kapinga met with the Chief of Seychelles Peoples‚Äô Defence Forces (SPDF) Brigadier Leopold Payet at the SPDF Headquarters, on the main island of Mahe, where¬† he ‚Äúexpressed his appreciation for this cooperative and collegiate approach which will greatly assist the future Tanzanian Air Surveillance capabilities,‚Äù reads the statement.
‚ÄúWe do not yet have any air surveillance capability like this in Tanzania, hence the importance to come here to the Seychelles and see the capability of the surveillance systems and learn from the experience gained within SAF in terms of air surveillance operations, technical systems and the training of personnel to become professional in Air Surveillance operations,‚Äù said Colonel¬†Kapinga.
The colonel says that air surveillance will not only help Tanzania for ‚Äúmaritime purposes but also to assist in border monitoring and to support combatting poaching of wildlife.‚Äù
The three Tanzanian officers also participated in an operational flight to see first-hand the capability of the surveillance systems and processes linking the air-patrolling with mission preparation, in- flight reporting, mission debriefing, reporting and analysis of information and imagery by the SAF imagery and intelligence section.
‚ÄúIt is the very first time that we are exchanging on this subject and I am glad to share the experience we gained over the years with regards to air operations with them‚Äù, said Captain Rodney Zarine, adjutant at the Seychelles Air Force..
The EUCAP Nestor‚Äôs Head of Country Office in the Seychelles, Bo Holtse, says this is the first time that two countries in the mandated area of EUCAP Nestor has ‚Äúengage in knowledge-sharing on development of air surveillance capabilities.‚Äù
Holtse, states that the ‚Äú enthusiasm by both Air Forces is proving just how vital it is to form regional links, to share information and experiences by regional counterparts‚Äù. Holtse also notes that assisting the sustainable development of capabilities and facilitating of the transfer of knowledge between countries of the region is in the core of the mandate of the civilian mission.
Earlier this year EUCAP Nestor‚Äôs mission‚Äôs mandate was extended up to December 2016.
The EUCAP Nestor works towards enabling countries of the horn of Africa and the western Indian Ocean to better master effective surveillance of their territorial waters, in order to help in the fight against piracy.
The Seychelles have benefitted through numerous trainings which aim to increase the capacity and know how of the country‚Äôs coastguards and air force.
The mission had a budget of 16 million US$ for the November 2013-¬† October 2014 period, with a workforce of around 100 international personnel, of whom around 70 operate out of Djibouti, 15 for Somalia but based in both Somalia and Nairobi, 10 in the Seychelles and one in Tanzania.
Seychelles and Tanzania, close allies of the past and present
As neighbours with maritime borders and close ties during the African decolonization period of the 1970s, Tanzania remains a traditional ally of Seychelles with military exchanges dating back to the late 1970s and early 1980‚Äôs where the Tanzanians were instrumental in training the Seychelles military or what was known then as¬† the people‚Äô s militia following¬† the June 5th 1977 coup d‚Äô√©tat by France Albert Ren√©.
Recently, the national airline, Air Seychelles, announced new direct flights to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. The flights which are expected to commence in December are expected to further enhance the relationship that exist between the two countries as well as encourage tourism, a sector which for both, plays a major role in their economy.