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Eritrea: 5th OSMA General Assembly Sealed

 African generals outside of Asmara Palace Hotel


By Semir Seid

The benefits of sport is much greater than we can imagine. Sport is being used as a means of gathering various collections of individuals, organizations and countries. It is a source of joy, a natural remedy for stress and a source of health. It is recommended by pediatricians whenever necessary. Thus, wherever people are situated, they can consider exercising to build their mental, physical and interpersonal qualities. Considering these benefits and other international factors as a baseline, the Organization of Military Sports in Africa (OSMA) is for the benefit of Africans.

The 5th General Assembly has been carried out in Asmara Palace Hotel from the 11th to 13th March. The event was successful. Following the opening ceremony, the General Assembly looked at issues critical to the organization. There was the election and renewal of some posts within the Board of Directors of OSMA, where Eritrea became part of the 18 board member states.

Incorporating the fundamental principles and motto of the International Military Sports Council (CISM), “Friendship Through Sport”, OSMA was founded in 1994 during the 40th CISM General Assembly. The OSMA is a continental organization made up of 45 Armed Forces of African Member countries. It is the African representative of the CISM.

The 5th OSMA General Assembly sought to set the regulations and plans for the next two years of activities, to approve the annual year budge, to gather reports of BOD and OSMA offices and to host BOD and presidency elections.

The organization is headquartered in Yaoundé, Cameroon. The 1st General Assembly took place on 25th March, 2008, in Algiers, Algeria. As of the 5th General Assembly, the session was able to renew the Board of Directors structure by starting to elect its new president, Colonel Kabre David from Burkina Faso; its vice president, Brigadier General Ashton Mlindeni Sibango of South Africa; and its secretary general, Djindola Pyer. As the law dictates, these newly elected officials are expected to serve OSMA for the next four years.

OSMA’s objective looks to promote and instill a coherent peaceful environment through sport and physical training activities among the armed forces of member states that contribute to the economic development and integration of the African continent. The General Assembly remains the legislative organ that brings all member countries. It is taken as the supreme authority of OSMA and elects the Board of Directors, which is the executive organ, which is chaired by the president of the organization.

The OSMA being formed early 90’s implements strategic objectives to foster planned, regular and closer interaction, solidarity, cooperation, mutual respect and support, professionalism, collaboration and Pan-Africanism amongst the militaries of the African member states for enhanced regional, sub regional, continental and world peace and security. It is based on CISM ideals and fosters the mutual interests of member states. CISM is one of the largest multi-disciplinary organizations in the world, organizes various sporting events for the armed forces of its 134 member countries.

The massive presence of participants at Asmara Palace during the General Assembly was appreciated by the OSMA officials. The officials expressed that previous assemblies hadn’t welcomed participant of this size and scale. They noted that this shows the organization has managed to build its reputation in line with its values.

OSMA runs its activities by the funds of the member states that are willing to contribute and sponsor the continental gatherings of the armed forces. The costs related to the operations of the liaison offices are primarily supported by the armed forces of the headquarters of these offices. The organizations manages a number of continental gatherings such as the African Military Games, African Military Football Cup (CAMFOOT), African Military Boxing Cup (CAMBOXE), African Military Athletics Cup (CAMATHLETISME) and African military Judo Cup (CAMJUDO). These championships are sponsored by some African Heads of State. Despite the budget shortfalls, OSMA officials declared at the press conference held at the end of the General Assembly , that ultimate target of the games is to enhance the awareness within Africa that OSMA passionately works towards peace—and only peace.

During the press conference at the General Assembly, Secretary General Colonel Dorah Mamby from Guinea, highlighted that although the armed forces were part of every African national’s duty, nations ought to be protected by bringing together militaries on the sports field rather than the battlefield. To illustrate the peace-building effects of sports, an example of South and North Korean athletes playing in tournaments was highlighted. This showed how military sports can actually bring solidarity among divided peoples.

General Flipos Weldeyohannes, Chief of Staff of
the Eritrean Defense Forces
According Olympic statistical data, 30% of medals belong to military athletes. Bearing almost one third of awards, nations with military athletes look forward to promoting their activities and relations across continents.

Coming back to the 5th OSMA General Assembly hosting country, Eritrea, the officials mentioned that the nation was selected since it is a member state and pays its duties on time; it actively participates in events prepared by the organization; and it is renowned by its Olympian military athletes for its performances in global competitions. Referring to the military sport in Eritrea, its history stretches back to the armed struggle period. Sport events were held in 1981, 1987, and 1989.

These particular junctures of time in the history of sports among the military magnify the sport legacy in Eritrea’s military tradition. Eritrean military delegates stated that the initiatives were mainly carried out on the operational unit level (brigade, battalion and company). After independence, sport activities were not organized properly. From 1997 to 1998, the Ground Forces of the time managed to organize a wide range of sports events but were interrupted by Ethiopian invasion of Eritrea.

With the establishment of the Information and Promotion Office in 2001 at the Ministry of Defense, army sport clubs shifted gears and started to conduct sport activities regularly. Since 2010, however, sport events at Ministry Defense level were scheduled only once every two years. The extension of time was preferred to enhance sport activity at the division level by organizing sport competition in each zonal command in every odd-numbered year.

Meanwhile, sport remains an important activity within Eritrean Defense Force (EDF) members with no off-year for sports. The Information and Promotion Office, apart from hosting and organizing sport competitions, worked on training referees and coaches for capacity-building. This and other endeavors enabled the EDF sports teams to make their names known in international sports arenas and win a number of Olympic medals. This is seen as a reflection of the EDF’s commitment to contributing to national pride and progress in the field of sports.

The Information and Promotion Office of the Ministry of Defense is member of international organizations such as CISM, the OSMA, and the East and Central Africa Liaison Office (ECALO) with the intent of promoting sports within the military.

Eritrea became member of CISM in a congress held in Dubai in 2002. Eritrea, as a member of this organization, pays its annual membership fee and participates in conferences. CISM organizes various sporting events including Military World Games and World Military Cup for the armed forces of 134 member countries. Eritrea is an active member of this large multi-sport discipline organization, which includes more than 20 competitions annually. Eritrea continues to participate in sport competitions organized by the continental branch of OSMA.

In 2002, the EDF took part in both soccer and athletics in Kenya and won OSMA’s Soccer Cup. The Vice President Brigadier General Sibango, in particular, appreciates Eritrean athletes in track and field competition.

The presence of numerous attendants, shows the local commitment towards OSMA’s development and promotion of peace in Africa and world. General Filipos Weldeyohannes, during his opening speech, indicated that sport was crucial for developing physical and mental fitness, advancing spirit, promoting unity and harmony, instilling discipline and relieving boredom, and helping to build relationships among countries and African people. The general further stated that military sports in Eritrea are regularly held and the result is clearly shown in the Olympian athletes participating in global competitions.

The Secretary General of the OSMA Mr. Djendola Pyer repeatedly underlined that when people hear about military the first thoughts that come to mind are guns and war. However, he assured participants that OSMA highlights that the opposite may also be true, that militaries can also promote peace.

The president-elect of OSMA, Colonel Kabre David expressed delight in the success of the General Assembly and all the hospitality showed by organizing committee, Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Culture and Sports and other concerned parties. He explained that the session allowed them to diagnose the current organizational difficulties. President-Elect Colonel Kabre David noted that this would drive sister African nations to intensify their internal and external relations to improve the organization’s capacities and bring all concerned people together towards building a prosperous and peaceful Africa. He said that military sports have a critical role in promoting peace and unity. He also asked for member countries to work collaboratively.

Further, the officials of OSMA and CISM openly discussed their roles and contributions towards building member countries’ sport infrastructures. They indicated that although it is not usually in the culture of military to sponsor such endeavors, what they can do is enhance awareness of sports among head states and chief staffs of armed forces to encourage construction of infrastructure for sports development.

The opening and ending ceremonies were performed by cultural artists in the military. Sbrit dance crew displayed a colorful Eritrean cultural show aimed at promoting African peace and development. OSMA currently has five liaison offices, namely, those in Algiers (North Africa), Ouagadougou (West Africa), Brazzaville (Central Africa), Bujumbura (East Africa) and Luanda (Southern Africa).

The OSMA General Assembly officially concluded its meetings and work sessions on Monday the 13th of March. High-level government officials, diplomats and 50 high-level military delegates from the 22 member states attended the three-day event. The participating countries in include South Africa, Algeria, Angola, Burundi, Burkina Faso, Botswana, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, The Congo Republic, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Guinea Republic Kenya, Morocco, Mauritania, Nigeria, Uganda, Senegal, Tanzania, Tunisia, Zambia and Eritrea.






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