Africa News Bulletin

Rwanda: Rwanda to serve as Africa hub to promote children rights through the security sector agenda

The Dallaire Institute for Children, Peace and Security on Monday signed with the government of Rwanda a host country agreement that will see Rwanda permanently hosting the African Centre of Excellence of the Dallaire Institute in Kigali.

At the signing ceremony, the Minister of State in Charge of East African Community at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Nshuti Manasseh reiterated Rwanda’s commitment to supporting the cause of preventing the recruitment and use of child soldiers in armed conflicts.

“The host agreement is a tangible expression of this support and we hope it will help you in the pursuit of this mission and achievement of your goals,” he said.

The Centre of Excellence is to facilitate all continental programmes focusing on child protection and promoting the rights of children through the security sector agenda.

It is also expected to host the Vancouver Principles agenda and accelerate the action for African countries to endorse and implement the principles, as championed by Rwanda.

So far, 105 countries globally have endorsed the set of political commitments focused on child protection in peacekeeping, including all stages of a conflict cycle.

They comprise 17 principles that focus on preventing the recruitment and use of child soldiers by armed forces and armed groups.

Lt. Gen (Rtd) Romeo Dallaire, the founder of the Institute said that the agreement is a move from what originally was the use of youth to conduct one of the most horrific crimes on earth, The 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

According to him, it will strengthen Rwanda’s capacity locally, regionally, and everywhere where Rwanda contributes peacekeeping troops in building a more operational capability to be deployed to prevent the use of child soldiers in conflicts.

The Canadian humanitarian was the Force Commander of UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) in the run-up and during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

Whitman said the African Centre of Excellence will be a hub for training doctrinal excellence, best practices, research and working towards a world where we put children at the heart of peace and security.

“Preventing requires endorsing nations to understand that taking responsibility at home for prevention of recruitment and use of children as soldiers is where the battle must first begin,” she said.

“For every country that fails to be effectively-prepared leaves the window wide open for those who wish to exploit the ignorant.”

These, she said, include those who exploit migrant children and those who recruit children being used in terrorist activities or criminal networks to the impacts of a globally digitalized world.

It also means preventing the trauma of soldiers and police officers who are too often put in moral dilemmas without adequate skills, knowledge, or tools, she said.

“Bringing back home personnel who have faced these incidences, we have often failed to understand the impact it has on our societies, the children of those soldiers.”

Focus on preventive actions to protect use of children in armed conflicts

There is a need for a transformational shift to move from good intentions to preventative actions with view to stop the use of children in armed conflicts, according to Dr. Shelly Whitman, Executive Director, Dallaire Institute for Children, Peace, and Security.

Preventive actions are primarily designed to prevent harm to children while responsive actions address the need of children who have already been harmed, she explained.

She said this on February 14, during the ceremony organized by Dallaire Institute of the International Red Hand Day against the use of child soldiers, which is globally celebrated on February 12.

“While many community-based, state-driven and internationally supported programmes have preventative effects, explicit and coordinated programmes on conflict prevention, particularly, recruitment prevention is lacking,” she noted.

Whitman pointed out that the focus should be prioritizing the protection of children’s rights and understanding the significant operational impact associated with the use of children as soldiers.

Reports from the institute indicate that within three decades, the number of children living in conflict zones at risk of being recruited and used in conflicts has tripled, estimated to move from 99 million in 1990 to 337 million children in 2020.

Every year, tens of thousands of children, both girls and boys are used by armed forces and armed groups in a variety of roles such as fighters, human shields, detainees, cooks, porters, messengers, spies, and for sexual purposes.

Maj. Gen. Ferdinand Safari, Director General of Policy and Strategy in the Rwandan Ministry of Defence said the need to protect the most vulnerable population, children, is very critical to the future of humanity and the attainment of peace and security.

He added: “Improved training and capacity building to our military and police enhances the protection of children abroad and at home. Rwanda understands well the need to invest in dedication and security for our children who will be leaders of tomorrow.”

Original story on The New Times

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