UN course on protection of civilians starts in Musanze

Col Jill Rutaremara (right) chats with some participants at Rwanda Peace Academy. Régis Umurengezi.

A group of 26 military and police officers from 13 countries on Monday started a trainers’ course on protection of civilians, at Rwanda Peace Academy in Musanze District.

The course is being conducted under the auspices of the UN.

The five-day course seeks to familiarise trainers of peacekeepers with the newly developed comprehensive package on protection of civilians in order to enable them pass it on in their respective countries.

Participants were drawn from Benin, Cameroon, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Netherlands, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, USA, Zambia and Rwanda.

Participants pose for a group photo at Rwanda Peace Academy in Musanze District. Régis Umurengezi

While officiating at the opening, the academy’s director, Col Jill Rutaremara, said the course was important given that violence against civilians still persists in different forms in various UN missions where troops are deployed for peacekeeping.

“There are still challenges in the effective protection of civilians, yet the central purpose of peacekeeping is protection of civilians,” he told participants.

Rutaremara went on to say that effective protection of civilians requires, among other things, a comprehensive and holistic view that combines elements such as protection of civilians, child protection and conflict related sexual violence.

“It requires proper interpretation of mandates within boundaries of the UN policies, guidelines and principles. In addition, it requires treating each mandate in its own context,” he noted.

“Coordination, collaboration and information sharing among the relevant stakeholders is also necessary for effective implementation of the protection of civilian mandates,” added Rutaremara.

He reminded participants that it is their duty to monitor and report any violation of human rights as well as violation of rights of the parties to the armed conflicts while on peacekeeping missions.

“Every peacekeeper should know that they shall individually be held accountable for unlawful acts,” advised Rutaremara.

Rutaremara pointed out that the Government of Rwanda is at the forefront of efforts to advocate for effective peacekeeping and protection of civilians thanks to the Kigali Principles on Protection of Civilians that are widely being endorsed by governments across the globe.

The training is the outcome of an ongoing collaborative effort between the Government of Rwanda, The Netherlands, the United States and the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations.

Dr Martin Koper, the deputy head of mission and development cooperation at Embassy of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, said that training and capacity building are key tools to improve peace keeping performance and impact.

“We (Rwanda, the US and the Netherlands) work together in providing integrated training in protection of civilians for military, police and civilians, better protection of civilians, adequate focus on human rights are not a luxury but a necessity,” he noted

The trainees welcomed the course, saying it was timely given challenges that participants in peacekeeping missions normally meet in their day-to-day endeavours.

“Zambia is one of countries that contribute to peacekeeping missions, with the police and the military personnel, and this course is very important because we play a very key role in ensuring that we protect civilians from any injuries,” said Col. Prosper Mangamu from Zambian Air Force.

“This course will give us a deep understanding of how we can protect civilians where we are deployed,” he added.