Rwanda: Reserve Force Train on Prevention of Child Soldiers' Recruitment

 Select members of the Rwanda Defense Force's (RDF) Reserve Force have just completed a special training on preventing the recruitment and use of child soldiers.

The course is a collaborative effort between The Dallaire Institute for Children, Peace, and Security (formerly the Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative) and the Rwanda Defence Force to enhance support for continuity of learning programmes despite COVID-19 pandemic.

The Dallaire Institute, whose African Centre of Excellence is based in Rwanda, works to end the recruitment and use of children as soldiers globally.

This most recent training took place at the Rwanda Peace Academy in Musanze District in the Northern Province and brought together 20 members of the RDF Reserve Force.

This was the sixth basic course delivered since 2017, and the first with a special focus on members of the Reserve Force.

A first of its kind anywhere, according to Dr. Shelly Whitman, Executive Director of the Institute, the course built on the professional experience of the Reserve Force members to share the latest knowledge on the prevention of recruitment and use of children in violence around the world.

"This is a significant investment in Rwanda's implementation of the Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers and advances the global children, peace, and security agenda on the African continent," said Dr. Whitman.

Major Marcel Mbabazi, Head of Training at Rwanda Peace Academy, reminded participants during the training's closing ceremony that the RDF has vast experience in addressing the problem of child soldiers

"The RDF can make a significant contribution in helping countries that still face this security sector concern," he noted, urging the military professionals present for the training to "put the knowledge [they] have gained to practical use."

In his concluding remarks, Rtd. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, the founder of the Dallaire Institute commended the participants, saying that the reserve forces have so much depth of experience that can be leveraged to end recruitment of child soldiers.

"They also have an ability to link the civilians and the military, and to bring the civilian skills required into the realm of the complex and innovative solutions we need to prevent the recruitment and use of children as weapons of war," he noted.

He urged participants to remain a bridge between their professional home and the broader public that is developing best practices on protecting children and preventing their use in violent conflict

General Dallaire also thanked the leadership of the RDF along with the Institute's many partners around the world, such as the German Foreign Office, for their support in making this opportunity possible.

In its tenth year at Dalhousie University, the newly relaunched Dallaire Institute, calls upon the international community to support a Children's Rights Upfront Approach to achieving global peace and security.

A Children's Rights Upfront approach sees the world through the perspective of children's needs and priorities.

It recognizes that children's protection from violence and war must be the priority if the intention is to break cycles of violence and achieve peace and security.

This requires concerted efforts to build collaboration and effective action towards global peace.

In these trying times of global pandemics, it is more important than ever to shift to a new normal, one that requires to collectively shape a children's, peace and security agenda.

The Dallaire Institute's newly established African Center of Excellence on Children, Peace and Security is strategically based in Kigali in order to capitalize on Rwanda's relevant expertise.

Rwandan peacekeepers are active in multiple peacekeeping missions across the continent, allowing them to disseminate and apply best practices on how to address the recruitment and use of children in violence as a tactical and strategic element of current conflicts.

This lived experience is crucial in the Dallaire Institute's efforts to make child soldiers unthinkable as an instrument of war.



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