A regional course on genocide, mass atrocity crimes and transnational justice in peace support operations opened Tuesday at Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) senior officers mess in Kigali.
The two-week course was opened by RDF Chief of Defence Staff Gen Patrick Nyamvumba.
Gen Nyamvumba told participants – more than 20 military, police and civilian officers from seven African countries – that, usually, the local population and international community have high expectations in peacekeepers both in protection of civilians and in administration of justice and, as such, the course is very important and relevant.
According to the Defence and Military Spokesperson, Lt Col Innocent Munyengango, the purpose of the course is to develop knowledge, capacity and skills to contribute to the implementation of rule of law initiatives in a peace support operations environment.
Participants in the course, which Munyengango said is being conducted for the second time, are from Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Zambia and Ghana.
The Musanze-based Rwanda Peace Academy (RPA), where the course was first conducted in May, is partnering with the British Peace Support Team East Africa (BPST-EA) to conduct the course.
While the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi was tragic, Gen Nyamvumba said, it helped the Rwandan society draw lessons and experiences that helped in continuously building a highly resilient society.
“The Rwanda Peace Academy provides a unique and contextual environment to learn about genocide, mass atrocity crimes and transnational justice in peace support operations,” said Gen Nyamvumba.
Canadian retired Lt Gen Romeo Dallaire, the former Force Commander of UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, was also present at the opening of the course and reiterated the need to end the use and recruitment of child soldiers.
Gen Dallaire developed the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, which seeks to progressively end the use and recruitment of child soldiers through a security sector approach.
He reiterated that the use of children as weapons of war must be recognised as a security concern with lasting implications for peace and stability, especially because child soldiers “do not win wars but just sustain them.”
“If the demographics are pushing them [children] into war, and use them in war, you are going to have a generational war. You have to stop the use of children in war,” Dallaire warned. “Child soldiers don’t win wars. They just sustain them.”
Shedding light on how children have globally been affected by war in the last 18 years, he pointed to two million children killed, six million seriously injured, one million orphaned, while there are 25 million child refugees or displaced persons, among others.