There is need to review the early warning and rapid deployment process of peacekeepers to efficiently protect those at risk, Defence minister James Kabarebe has said.
Kabarebe made the call during the UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial Conference in Kigali yesterday.
The meeting was attended by delegates from countries that finance and contribute troops to UN peacekeeping missions. The meeting, one of the three taking place in different parts of the world, seeks to lay the groundwork for a bigger conference due November 14 to 15 in Canada.
Japan and Bangladesh are also hosting preparatory meetings.
The focus for deliberations are centered on how to strengthen performance accountability for protection of civilians, gender perspectives in peacekeeping and how the Kigali Principles enhance protection of civilians.
The Kigali Principles on the Protection of Civilians, adopted in May 2015, is a set of best practices to enhance implementation of civilian protection. The 18 recommendations provide a blueprint to strengthen the international community’s commitment to effectively protect civilians.
Kabarebe said armed conflicts are not spontaneous but are always preceded by warning signals some of which can be easily gathered without the use of sophisticated technologies.
“Information gathering is sometimes poor and the will to put that information together is sometimes lacking. In other instances, information is gathered but poorly analysed or deliberately distorted. Unfortunately, correct situational analysis also does not always lead to appropriate and timely response,” the minister said.
“There is need to review the specific challenges in early warning process and rapid deployment as well as the challenges associated with protecting those at risk. These challenges can be addressed by filling capability gaps and taking appropriate and timely responses at various levels.”
Most critical component
Kabarebe said the challenges can also be addressed through institutional reforms, change of mindset, and drawing lessons from past mistakes and inactions, citing Rwanda before and during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
“Peacekeeping operations should be integrated to bring onboard police and civilians. Gaps in specific diversities in operational environments such as language should also be given due consideration,” he said.
Kabarebe urged more countries to endorse the Kigali Principles on the Protection of Civilians.
Gen Patrick Nyamvumba, the chief of defence staff of the Rwandan Defence Forces, elaborated how the Kigali Principles enhance the protection of civilian mandate.
Nyamvumba, who from 2009 to 2013 served in Sudan as Force Commander of the AU-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur, called to mind why well-drafted UN peacekeeping plans fail.
“Conflicts today involve belligerents and sponsors with different agendas and interests. The Kigali Principles is a breakthrough,” he said.
While proper equipment and training are essential for peacekeeping missions, Nyavumba said these are not the most successful in producing the desired or intended result when it comes to effective peacekeeping.
“The most critical component is commitment of peacekeepers, their commanders and their home governments,” Nyamvumba said.
Protection of civilians, he emphasised, is the most important reason peacekeeping mission are deployed.
“When peacekeepers don’t fulfill this mission, they have no reason for existence,” Nyanvumba said.
Maj Gen Patrick Cammaert, a former UN force commander for eastern DR Congo and also as military advisor to the UN Secretary-General, said women and children remain victims of violence in peacekeeping missions.
He said UN peacekeeping missions struggle because of lack of women in contingents and restrictions of movement by host countries. However, he noted, the problem lies in the implementation of the mandate.
Peacekeepers must understand that peacekeeping goes beyond military activities, he said.
Like Nyamvumba, Cammaert said what is needed is not equipment and troops but “remarkable” field officers and commanders.
While peacekeeping is at crossroads – with a lot of pressure being piled on the UN to cut peacekeeping budgets – courageous leaders, Cammaert said, are needed to make things happen.