Rwanda Defence Force (RDF), in partnership with the Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative on Tuesday launched a programme that seeks to combat recruitment and use of children in armed conflicts.
The two-week course is being held at the Rwanda Peace Academy headquarters in Musanze District and targets 13 RDF officers who were shortlisted from 47 officers who previously attended the Basic Course on Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers.
The objective of the course, according to officials, is to give participants a better understanding of the concept of child soldiering, analyse the reasons behind the use of children in armed conflicts, while at the same time equipping them with the right training methodology to become trainers themselves.
Participants pose for a group photo with officials from the Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative and Rwanda Peace Academy. Régis Umurengezi.
The trainees are expected to impart the acquired knowledge to RDF personnel, particularly potential peacekeepers on pre-deployment training.
Speaking at the official opening of the course, the academy director, Col Jill Rutaremara, said participants are already familiar with the plight of children especially during armed conflicts, as they had done a basic course on this particular subject.
He said that RDF and the Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative are partnering to address the plight of children in armed conflicts as both institutions share the same concern over the vice.
“RDF entered into formal partnership with the Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative in order to build the requisite capability for fighting this menace,” he noted.
The initiative is spearheaded by Gen (rtd) Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian General who commanded the UN peacekeeping force that was deployed in Rwanda during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Commenting on the course, Rutaremara said that it will enable RDF to build the requisite critical capability that is integral to its units that may deploy in peacekeeping missions.
He urged course participants to take it “very seriously” as, at the end, they will be training their colleagues some of whom may even be older than them.
The Manager of Training at the Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, Jennifer McNeil, told The New Times that the Initiative wants to bring the security sector perspective to the issue of child soldiers by providing sector members the training and tools necessary to prevent the recruitment and use of child soldiers worldwide.
“Through this we hope to build a more holistic, prevention-oriented approach,” she said.
“By engaging security sector actors, who are often the first point of contact with child soldiers on mission, we can create a comprehensive international response that enables us to take a preventive approach to the issue of children used as weapons of war,” McNeil added.
She commended the Government of Rwanda for its commitment to supporting all the efforts to combat recruitment and use of children in armed conflicts.