A tri-party collaboration that was launched on Thursday, July 29, will see the training of Security Sector Actors to act as peace support operatives in ensuring the prevention of the recruitment and use of children as soldiers in armed conflicts. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was entered between the African Peace Support Trainers Association (APSTA) based in Cameroon, the Martin Luther Agwai International Leadership and Peacekeeping Centre (MLAILPKC) in Nigeria, and the Dallaire Institute for Children, Peace, and Security in Canada, on July 29. This collaboration, according to officials from Dallaire Institute, is projected to impact the West African sub-region by creating an awareness of the scourge of child soldiers as well as mitigating against insecurity bordering on children in crisis afflicted regions. Officals during the virtual event for the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding aimed at preventing the recruitment and use of children as soldiers in armed conflicts, on Thursday, July 29. “We are honoured to be partnering with these two eminent organisations toward mutual goals of prevention and protection,” said the Dallaire Institute Executive Director Dr Shelly Whitman. The Dallaire Institute partnered with the Government of Rwanda to establish an African Centre of Excellence in Kigali and we are grateful to have this agreement hosted and championed by the Dallaire Institute African Centre of Excellence in advancing advocacy effort to Prevention the Recruitment and Use of Children in Armed Conflicts. “We often hear about African solutions to African problems, but in our perspective we want to focus on African solutions to global concern. There is so much that Africa has to offer us in terms of understanding issues, especially related to children, peace and security.” The protection of children is essential to the role of security personnel around the globe, she said. Officals hold documents after signing the MoU on Thursday, July 29. Photos: Courtesy. “Each time that the security sector fails to adequately be prepared and trained for their interaction with children who are recruited and used as soldiers, we leave the door open for the unscrupulous adults and groups who wish to abuse children,” said Whitman. “We will continue to build on our African trainers, our staff, the agreement and relationships that we have created to build dialogue and collective solutions,” she added. The official launch of activities comprised an inaugural intake of 30 participants for a training of trainers’ course on ‘the prevention of the recruitment and use of children as child soldiers in armed conflicts’. The training went underway at MLAILPKC in Jaji -Kaduna, Nigeria and it is being facilitated by Dallaire Institute. The centre is a regional hub for Peacekeeping, Peace Support Operations and Leadership training. Major General James Ataguba, commandant of MLAIPKC said “the Centre remains committed to achieving its core mandate of ensuring the deployment of quality peacekeepers as well as conducting specialist peace operations training for members of the armed forces, police, other paramilitary organizations, civilians from ministries departments and agencies as well as non-governmental organisations.” “It is our duty as leaders and educators to prioritize the protection of children and achieve the greatest possible results,” said Cecile Oyono Nee THOM, the Executive Secretary of APSTA. The recruitment and use of children in armed conflicts in Africa escalated with the declaration of violent, extremism and terrorism across the continent. “Children make up 50-60 per cent of the population of the continent and extremist groups like Al Qaeda, Al Shabaab and Boko Haram capitalize on factors such as poverty, marginalization, and religious ideology for the easy recruitment of child soldiers,” said Oyono. The representative of the Chief of Policy and Plan (Army), Major General AE Attu said “I believe the outcome of this partnership will go a long way to bring to fall the menace of recruitment and use of child soldiers.” “According to Child Soldiers International, the use of children in armed conflicts has a disturbing rise since 2012, 59 per cent increase and almost 30,000 recruitment cases verified, it also observed that the exploitation of girls associated with conflicts was equally worrisome,” he said. Every year, tens of thousands of children, both girls and boys are used by armed forces and armed groups in a variety of roles such as fighters, cooks, porters, messengers and spies, and for sexual purposes. Over 102 countries have endorsed the Vancouver Principles which Rwanda championed on the continent, a set of political commitments focused on child protection in peacekeeping, including all stages of a conflict cycle. They comprise 17 principles that focus on preventing the recruitment and use of child soldiers by armed forces and armed groups. More than half of UN peacekeeping operations take place in countries where child soldiers are used. For peacekeepers, the presence of children in armed forces and armed groups presents immediate and complex political, tactical and operational challenges. The moral injuries of encountering child soldiers can be severe and may affect peacekeepers long after they have returned home. Francisca Mujawase, the Acting Director for the African Centre of Excellence referred to the African Hub as a Rwanda based Institute, which partners with the Rwandan Government facilitated by the Rwanda Defence Force and Rwanda National Police on capacity building initiative and research efforts. Rwanda also supports our work as a policy champion in multilateral settings, including at the African Union level and beyond. The Federal Republic of Germany remains the largest funder of the Dallaire Institute work in Rwanda working to support the reach and impact of the African Centre of Excellence regionally and globally and Intact Insurance Canada, a private Corporate Company that has immensely contributed to the scope of what has been achieved in this context.