13 February 2013

Rwanda: Mushikiwabo to UN: Enhance Civilian Protection

Rwanda's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation has urged the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to invest more energy in the prevention of conflicts for better protection of civilians living in conflict-torn areas.

Civilians in troubled Syria, Sudan, South Sudan, Mali, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, - where the M23 and other rebel groups have displaced thousands - are at serious risk today. Net Photo.

Louise Mushikiwabo made the call during an open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict which the UNSC held in New York on Tuesday.

"Rwanda's core message today is that enhancing the protection of civilians in armed conflict requires action before a conflict starts. The proliferation of non-state armed groups makes civilian protection both more urgent, and harder to achieve," she said.

For better protection of civilians in armed-conflict areas, the minister emphasised the need to increase investments in professionalising the military and police forces through adequate training.

"Only when the leadership of armed forces shares the international community's preoccupation with civilian protection will decisive progress be made," she said.

Rwanda assumed its seat at the UNSC as a non-permanent member in January, replacing South Africa.

The country was subsequently assigned to chair two vital subsidiary organs of the council which are the committee established to enforce sanctions of arms embargo, travel ban, and assets freeze imposed on Libya, as well as an ad hoc working group on prevention of conflicts in Africa.

Mushikiwabo said civilians in troubled Syria, Sudan, South Sudan, Mali, and the Democratic Republic of Congo are at serious risk today and warned the Security Council that it might face new situations of armed conflict in the months and years ahead.

But she pledged Rwanda's support in peacekeeping efforts in the world, a task she said should be neither costly nor controversial if it were approached with a sense of preventing conflicts before

they happen instead of resorting to last-minute military solutions.

"In line with the lessons we learned rebuilding Rwanda after Genocide, we do not approach peacekeeping as an exclusively military task. We believe that early peace building is critical to the success of these missions, and that adequate resources should be directed to complement uniformed personnel as they fulfill their mandate to protect civilians," she said.

At the UNSC's debate on the protection of civilians, Mushikiwabo highlighted some of the cost-effective practices being pioneered by Rwandans, including the introduction of made-in-Rwanda energy-efficient stoves to help the people living in Darfur, Sudan, reduce the risk of brutal attacks and rape that often threaten them when they go deeper in the forests looking for firewood.

Rwanda has also recognised the potential of investing in training female peacekeepers, the minister said, because they are often better able to intervene in specific situations such as fighting gender-based violence and raise awareness to protect women and children in communities where they serve.

Rwanda, the world's sixth largest contributor of peacekeepers, maintains military and police peacekeepers across the world, notably, in Sudan, South Sudan, Haiti, Ivory Coast, Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

The country has more than 3,200 soldiers in Darfur serving under the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (Unamid), and over 850 troops in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (Unmiss).

Also a leading contributor of female police officers to UN peacekeeping missions, Rwanda maintains about 470 police peacekeepers, including 130 women, in different missions.

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