Moi opens first African military Games

Nairobi- Kenya (PANA) -- Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi Wednesday flagged off the First African Military Games in a ceremony at Nairobi's Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, after receiving the games' torch from Chief of the General Staff, General Joseph Kibwana, amid a fantastic display of military colours and parade.
Kibwana had received the torch from Kenyan star athletes Paul Koech and Moses Tanui, after a lap of honour round the tracks of the 65,000 spectators-capacity stadium.
In a key-note speech at the opening ceremony, Moi hailed African military establishments for supporting the games, which, he said affords soldiers the opportunity to socialise and make friends that go along way in promoting African unity.
"These games provide the opportunity for the athletes to interact and develop a sense of common belonging," he said.
The President headed straight to the stadium on arrival at the Jomo Kenyatta International airport from Dakar, Senegal, where he had attended the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) meeting, to a rousing welcome by a huge crowd of participants and spectators.
To the beat of martial music, a contingent of Kenyan soldiers marched in a formation depicting the African continent while a huge cake was cut to mark the occasion.
The crowd cheered as pigeons and colourful balloons were released into the air.
Sports disciplines to be contested at the games include basketball, handball, judo, tae-kwondo, boxing, volleyball, football, golf, swimming, hockey and athletics.
Some 32 teams had arrived at the time of the opening of the games, expected to feature 32 countries.
All the teams are being housed at the athletes' village within Kenyatta University, except the Libyan delegation, which arranged its own accommodation.
Also addressing the ceremony, the head of CISM (International Council for Military Sports), Gianni Gola of Italy, said the impressive attendance at the Nairobi meeting was proof of the popularity of the games.
"By organising the first ever continent wide military games, you are sending a wonderful and very strong message of hope and peace to the whole world.
"We do not forget that sports are also a tool for understanding within the civilian population," he said, adding that CISM was not just sports, but also about solidarity, and pledged his continued support to the event.
Gola expressed CISM's appreciation to the Kenyan government and the organising Committee for working tirelessly to make the event a success.
Kibwana said the games were being held in the spirit of friendship and togetherness of the African military.
"Instead of battlefields, the sports arena will be the venues of testing strengths between the various teams present," he said.
Moi had presided over the fundraiser for the games with government ministries, corporate firms and individuals joining in to make the event a success.
Also present was the head of the Military Games Africa office (OSMA), Colonel Malboum Kalkaba of Cameroon.
Other dignitaries included CISM Secretary General, Colonel Robert Eggermont, CISM Europe President, Colonel Leon De Wulf, Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA) President Ibrahim Diallo, ANOCA Secretary General Tommy Sithole, South Africa Defence Force Commander General S.
Nyanda and Rwandan Chief of General Staff, Brigadier James Kaberebe.
Participating countries are Kenya, Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Congo, Djibouti, DR Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Guinea.
Others are Lesotho, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and South Africa.
Cote d'Ivoire and Guinea-Bissau will be in Nairobi as observers.
Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa have the biggest entries with 287, 270 and 155 sportsmen respectively.
Other big contingents are Cameroon (131) and Guinea (103).
CISM brings together the militaries of the world through sports and education.
Founded 18 February 1948 in Nice, France, it has 122 members with 44 from Africa.

17 avril 2002 18:49:00

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