Why the world wants more Rwandan peacekeepers in hotspots
Presentation by General Patrick Nyamvumba, Chief of Defence Staff, Rwanda Defence Force, at the Kigali International Conference on Protection of Civilians, 28-29 May 2015
I am pleased to have this opportunity to make my humble contribution to the ongoing efforts to take the Protection of Civilians from UN mandates on paper to actual implementation on the ground.
When the UN was created far back in 1945, the founders were spurred on by noble ideals that we still cherish to this very day. In particular, the Preamble to the United Nations Charter claims that the founders were motivated by the desire â€œâ€¦to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and smallâ€¦â€
Seven decades down the road, innocent civilians are still suffering during armed conflicts in different parts of the world. Seven decades down the road we are still debating what protection of civilians means. Seven decades down the road we are still lamenting the lack of resources and lack of training to protect civilians in danger even with full-fledged UNSC mandates!
It is my hope that this Conference will reflect further and more deeply on how peacekeepers can effectively implement the POC mandate and come up with practical recommendations on the way forward. In particular, the Conference should propose how to effectively implement the protection of Civilians mandate and how to effectively monitor that implementation.
I have been asked to talk about enhancing capabilities, training and commitment of peacekeepers for protection of civilians mandate. I want to make two major points at the outset. The first point is that while equipment and training are essential for a successful peacekeeping mission, they are rendered irrelevant in the absence of the will to use force to protect civilians. The second point is that to be a good peacekeeper, one must first and foremost be a good soldier. The biggest gap that needs to be filled.
Case of failure to protect civilians: Rwanda 1994
Each time a discussion about protection of civilians comes up, my memory quickly revisits the UN peacekeeping scandal of 1994 in this country. The UN Military Observer Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) was withdrawn from the country at a time when its services were most needed. Abandoned by the â€œInternational Communityâ€™ at an our hour of need, the Rwandese Patriotic Army paid a heavy cost but managed to defeat the genocidal regime and to stop the genocide against the Tutsi. That experience left in my memory the image of UN peace operations as a mockery to international peace and security. No amount of philosophizing about mandates, competing demands, lack of capability, inadequate training and inadequate information could erase that bad image from my memory or the memory of Rwandans. And I say this because of the expectations that come with deployment of peacekeepers.
History of POC Mandate
One would have expected that all peacekeeping missions are meant to protect civilians but this has not always been the case. For a period of fifty four years between 1945 and 1999, protection of civilians was never expressly stated in UN mandates. It was only sixteen years ago that POC featured in a UN peacekeeping mandate. This was in the context of United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) that was authorized by the UNSC in 1999.
Since then, all peacekeeping missions authorized by the Security Council have been mandated to protect civilians. In order to facilitate the execution of this mandate, the UN DPKO and DFS have provided troop and police contributors with pre-deployment POC training modules. Am also happy to note that the three-tiered approach to POC outlined in the Operational Concept on POC in Peacekeeping has got well established amongst peacekeeping operations. This concept of operations covers prevention, physical protection and creation of a protective environment. Furthermore, missions implementing POC mandates have demonstrated their resolve by creating a coordination system to bring together the military, police, civilian, and support components of the mission, whether this in practice works is another matter altogether.
Protection of civilians should be a clear and straightforward concept. Surprisingly, debates on its actual meaning continue in the background and do have an adverse effect on implementation of the POC mandate. There are some troop and police contributing countries who interpret their POC mandate as consisting merely of presence in the vicinity of the civilians that need protection. This approach of protecting by presence is defensive and lacks the exercise of initiative. Fortunately, there are many troop and police contributing countries who understand POC for what it really is, namely to be proactive and to exercise initiative by conducting a whole range of operations designed to reassure the civilians, to throw off-balance the would be attackers.
Evaluation of POC implementation
In 2009, a comprehensive review of POC in peacekeeping operations was conducted by the Office of Internal Oversight Services. The findings are contained in a report called â€œEvaluation of the Implementation and Results of protection of civilians mandates in United nations peacekeeping operations â€“ Report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (A/68/787)â€. They concluded that the chain of events to support protection of civilians was broken.
The report further noted a persistent pattern of peacekeeping operations not intervening with force when civilians are under attack. And this is in spite of the fact that the use of force is legally authorized and consistent with the intent of the UN Security Council and the expectations of civilians.
The Report made three recommendations. The first recommendation was to enhance operational control over contingents which, for understandable reasons, was not fully accepted by the DPKO. The second recommendation was to improve the clarity of peacekeepersâ€™ tasks at the tactical level while the third recommendation was to improve the working level relationship between peacekeeping operations and humanitarian entities.
Operational and tactical missions of a peacekeeping force
The subject of capabilities, training and commitment to POC in UN peacekeeping missions is very important but complex. Before we talk about POC, we need first to understand what peacekeeping really entails on the ground as distinct from peacekeeping as a concept on paper. I have been fortunate to serve as Force Commander with UNAMID in Darfur Sudan and now as Chief of Defence Staff of Rwanda Defence Force in Rwanda. This experience on both sides of the peacekeeping job, one as an employer of forces generated by several TCCs and the other as a generator of forces to Peacekeeping missions, allows me a fairly clear understanding of what capabilities, what training and what commitment are required for troops deployed to UN peacekeeping missions.
Authorizing a UN Peacekeeping mission is one thing, translating the mandate into tangible results on the ground is another and often complex matter. The specifics of UN Peacekeeping mandates vary from mission to mission but in general, Peacekeeping forces are required to Provide a secure environment, observation and monitoring, interposition, enforcement of sanctions, restoration and maintenance of law and order, support to humanitarian activities and, last but not least, protection of civilians.
The above operational missions of a peacekeeping force translate into a myriad of tactical roles and tasks including the following: Securing safe corridors and the passage of convoys; establishing safe havens; separating armed elements (especially in relation to border control, IDP camps, and roads); Military observation and surveillance; preventing mob violence and crowd control; Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR); coercive disarmament; seizing arms caches; Demining; facilitating humanitarian access to conflict areas; securing key facilities and cultural properties; enforcing curfews; ensuring freedom of movement; supporting police presence and patrols; protecting VIPs; providing backup for high-risk arrests; eliminating special threats; handling detainees; preventing looting and pilfering; supporting the prosecution of human rights abuses; transmitting information about human rights abuses to monitoring groups; training local security forces; providing intelligence support focused on civilian protection; stopping hate media; direct use of force against killers.
Each of the above military tasks is complex and highly demanding. The tasks can be carried out only by a force that is adequately trained, adequately equipped, sufficiently motivated and disciplined.
Capabilities for Protection of Civilians
Unfortunately, in practice most, deployed units come in with dilapidated CoE, are deficient in logistics, are poorly trained for the job at hand and are usually handicapped by language barrier. Inadequate military aviation capability is a common defining characteristic of PK forces. Allow me to talk briefly about each of the above mentioned deficiencies that compromise preparedness and hamper the effectiveness of deployed PK forces.
The operational worthiness of PK forces is seriously hampered by the dilapidated state of vital equipment, especially vehicles (mobility) and APCs. The response to operational orders from commanders is therefore sluggish, right size of force required for a particular task cannot be grouped at the right time due to equipment deficiencies.
No military operation can be successful without efficient and timely availability of logistic support. The biggest impediment for UN Peacekeeping operations has been fragile logistic system not encompassing operational needs. In the absence of a permanent logistic system, UN PK forces need to be self-sustaining for at least three months in the event of breakdown of logistic chain due to blocked land/air routes either because of weather or operational conditions.
Peacekeeping operations are sometimes conducted in countries/regions with very vast surface area and impassable roads such as in DRC and Darfur/Sudan. Dedicated military aviation assets are therefore critical for speedy transportation and deployment of forces.
Training for protection of civilians
Peacekeeping operations are very complex and sensitive in nature involving both combat and negotiation dimensions. With no formal training regime in place at UN level as well as in TCCs, the military component is inadequately trained as far as PKOs are concerned. It is incumbent upon the commanders to ensure continuous training of their units while in theatre.
Commitment to protection of civilians
This far, I have outlined the existing gaps in terms of capabilities and training for protection of civilians in the context of UN-mandated peace support operations. I have also made a case for enhancing both the capabilities and the training of peacekeepers. I will now turn to a more vital, yet poorly understood, factor called â€œcommitmentâ€™. I say poorly understood because some talk of commitment as though it were an attire one could put on before deploying to a peace support operation and which one would take off once the operation was over. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Commitment is a drive that emanates from many years of education, socialization and professional training. It is born of a deep-seated belief that my â€œAgaciroâ€ or value is dependent upon the Agaciro I give to the rest of humanity. Commitment is premised on a well-grounded culture that values excellence and detests mediocrity. Commitment is a manifestation of selflessness that should characterize each and every peacekeeper worth the name.
Can commitment be taught? Yes. Can commitment be taught in a few months during pre-deployment training? No. The bitter truth is that if we want to have committed peacekeepers today we should have started nurturing them twenty years ago!
Nurturing the spirit of commitment is a heavy responsibility that lies upon the leadership of the UN member states. It calls for a re-examination of the doctrine and ethos of the military and police organizations of our respective states. This is a difficult job but it is necessary and it can be done.
Conclusion and Recommendations
It is my humble submission that if the UN peace operations are to maintain their relevance in this rapidly changing world there needs to be objective and honest discussions between DPKO, DFS and troop contributing countries on the matter of troop and police preparedness for peacekeeping operations. Out of such frank and objective discussion, the following action points could emerge:
TCCS to clearly demonstrate will to protect civilians in danger even at the risk of physical harm to their sons and daughters in uniform. There could be nothing as painful as watching innocent civilians die while armed forces on a UN peacekeeping mission are deployed nearby. In other words self-preservation of troops on a UN peacekeeping mission should be castigated in clear terms.
The UNDPKO and DFS should ensure that pre-deployment and in-theatre inspections of troop preparedness is professionally conducted with the highest levels of integrity. Tough measures should be taken wherever preparedness is found to fall short of the required minimum. Any force found inadequately prepared should be barred from deploying while a deployed force which is found below the threshold of preparedness should be withdrawn immediately without any apologies. Failure to take such stern and decisive action would be tantamount to complicity to harm civilians in danger.
The UN Force commanders should be given more powers especially to take action whenever a force deployed from a particular TCC is found glaringly unprepared for the mission.
The compensation regime for CoE could also be improved. As mentioned yesterday on the tendency to concentrate more on the market value as opposed to what is needed.A need also for the financial and troop contributors to narrow the gap when it comes to CEO reimbursement(s).
Troop and police contributing countries should take tough disciplinary measures against their peacekeepers if the latter fail to protect civilians in danger within their respective areas of responsibility.
I thank you.