Rwanda Peace Academy, Save the Children, and Rwanda National Police, among other stakeholders, on Thursday discussed how to scale up training for officers deployed in peacekeeping missions, especially on the component of protection of children’s rights.
This was during a one-day meeting in Kigali yesterday.
A 2017 report by Save the Children, titled, ‘The war on children’, shows that the number of children living in a conflict zone has increased by more than 75 per cent from the early 1990s when it was around 200 million, to more than 357 million children in 2016.
This, according to the report, implies that at least one in six children lives in a conflict and that 165 million of these children are affected by high intensity conflicts.
Children living in such conflict-impacted areas often lack access to school and health facilities, and are more exposed to violence.
Rwanda is one of the world’s fourth largest troop contributor to United Nations peacekeeping missions.
The country deploys military, police and civilians to restore peace in several troubled parts of the world.
According to experts, the higher the number of peacekeepers a country deployed, the more efforts and investment is needed to enhance the capacity of outbound troops on how best to safeguard the rights of children before they embark on their mission.
There is an approved curriculum on children’s rights that serves to build peacekeepers’ capacity on how to protect the rights of children in areas of conflict.
Methode Ruzindana, the Director of Research Department at the Musanze-based Rwanda Peace Academy, said that as a country that has made significant progress in human rights protection, including children’s rights, Rwanda can replicate its own experience in areas where it has peacekeepers.
According to Anthony Njoroge, the Regional Senior Programme Manager at Save the Children International, protection of children’s rights during armed conflict should be an issue of concern to all and more efforts should be invested to address it.
“We have a standardised curriculum and training packages in the region to enable deployed peacekeepers play an effective role in rescuing the lives of children during the hard times of insecurity. People to be deployed should go through child protection courses, ” Njoroge said.
He said that Somalia and South Soudan are some of the African countries where child abuses are common, while Boko Haram, a terrorist group that operates across several West African countries, is among the leading violators of children’s rights.
Njoroge added that violent extremism is becoming a complicated issue because it also presents a dilemma for peacekeepers. “Children are being used by terrorists. These are serious cases which need utmost attention from peacekeepers,” he said.