Protection of civilians in raging armed conflicts will not be possible if current obstacles to how much that peacekeepers can do is not reformed, Gen. Patrick Nyamvumba has said.
The Rwanda Army Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) told an event at the U.S Institute of Peace in Washington reviewing the so called ‘Kigali Principles’ that they have never been more needed as it is today “as the world sees more intrastate conflicts.”
In May last year, top 30 Troops and Police Contributing Countries and top 10 Financial Contributing Countries to UN peace operations, UN professionals, scholars and other stakeholders convened in Kigali city to put ink on paper that saw the Kigali Principles signed. According to terms of the Kigali Principles, member countries agreed on the need for use of force by peacekeepers, where necessary, to save lives of endangered civilians in war-torn regions.
“Peacekeepers should be able to use force when there is need to protect civilians who are endangered,” said Gen. Nyamvumba, himself a former force commander of the UN force in the Sudanese troubled region of Darfur. It was also one of the largest global peacekeeping missions so far.
During his tenure in Darfur, Gen. Nyamvumba witnessed first-hand regular attacks by Sudanese government-backed militias on civilian camps. Peacekeepers were never any safe, as several were killed in ambushes.
Today, the situation has calmed down in Darfur amid a shaky peace deal between warring sides – the black Africans and their Arabs neighbours compete for control of limited livable lands in a largely desert region. But peacekeeping in the DR Congo remains a challenge. There are dozens of militias roaming the vast country.
Hundreds of thousands of civilians have lived in camps for many years – leaving them a constant prey for attacks. Hundreds have been massacred – sometimes with helpless UN helmets barely a few meters away.
In Rwanda in 1994, Gen. Nyamvumba was part of the rebel force that was battling government soldiers and genocide militias. The UN force at the time was actually withdrawn – leaving tens of thousands for dead. In the ETO college in Kigali which was a UN base, some 2,000 Tutsis were slaughtered when the blue helmets abandoned the facility.
At the Washington event, Gen. Nyamvumba was on the panel with Amb. Elbio Rosselli of Uruguay and Jack Christofides – from the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO).
“Unnecessary caveats remain an impediment in peacekeeping operations,” said Gen. Nyamvumba.
For Christofides, “Lack of adequate leadership is another impediment to peacekeeping. Proper training will allow for proper action.”
The Kigali conference was a follow-up to the High-level Summit on Peacekeeping Operations, co-hosted by President Kagame, US Vice President Joe Biden, Prime Ministers of Bangladesh, Pakistan, Japan and the UN Secretary General in September 2014 on margins of the 69th UN General Assembly in New York.
During the meeting on Peace Operations in September last year, President Kagame announced that Rwanda would contribute additional 1600 troops, two attack helicopters, a Level Two Hospital and an-all female police unit.
The pledge was an addition to over 4500 uniformed men and women Rwanda maintains in different peacekeeping missions such as in troubled Central African Republic, Sudanese region of Darfur, Haiti and South Sudan. Rwanda already has some 6600 troops in different regions.
The Kigali Principles on Protection of Civilians provide a blueprint to enhance implementation of civilian protection mandates.
For Nancy Lindborg, President of US Institute of Peace, “If we can get the Kigali Principles right, we can save lives in many peacekeeping missions.”