In May 2015, an international conference on the protection of civilians took place in Kigali. The meeting brought together 30 of the top troop and police contributing countries in peace keeping.
One of the most important outcomes of the conference was the Kigali Principles on the Protection of civilians. The inaugural signatories were Italy, Netherlands, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Uruguay and Rwanda. Today, 45 countries, accounting for 75 percent of all troop contributing countries, have come on board.
As the initial signatories pointed out in Kigali two and a half years ago; “... effective protection of civilians requires properly trained troops, adequate equipment, and a strong political commitment”.
In the just ended UN peacekeeping conference in Vancouver, Canada, nearly every speaker who took the floor heaped praise on Rwandan peacekeepers for their professionalism. It was not chance.
Rwanda takes peace keeping very seriously. Its whole-hearted engagement is informed by the international community’s failure to protect Rwandans during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. It learnt the hard way.
Since then, it has made it its business to protect civilians under threat and today Rwandan peacekeepers are recognised for their discipline and serious engagement in the area.
Rwanda has helped change the face of peacekeeping. Gone are the days when peacekeepers were there to be seen, patrolling in their armoured vehicles but crossed their arms and failed to protect civilians when needed.
Rwandan peacekeepers have perfected the peacekeeper-civilian relations. They have built schools, dispensaries, carried out medical clinics and exported community service by introducing Umuganda.
They have helped to mend the image of international peacekeeping that was tainted by widespread reports of gender violence, exploitation and illicit trade
Today’s peacekeeping goes beyond standing in between two warring factions; they need to identify – as soon as possible – potential threats and move fast to mitigate them. Prevention comes cheaper than putting back together a tattered community.