A three-day National Security Symposium opened at the Rwanda Defence Force Command and Staff College in Musanze District with contemporary security challenges in Africa on the agenda.
The symposium brings together 45 students from 10 countries namely: Czech Republic, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia.
All participants hold ranks from Major to Lieutenant Colonel.
Organised in collaboration with University of Rwanda, the symposium features academics, national security experts, researchers among others, and it is part of a one-year senior officers' course offered at the college.
Other areas of discussion are strategies and challenges in eradicating armed groups in the Great Lakes region, cyber security as national security imperative, assessment of UN peace support operations for its success, its failures and way forward.
Officiating at the symposium, Defence Minister James Kabarebe said the symposium was an opportunity to bring together academics, national security practitioners, scholars, analysts and students to deal with subjects of national, regional and global importance.
"National security is a pillar and foundation for our countries' development. The essence of a national defence force is the security and stability of our nations. As you know, countries engage into diplomatic and security cooperation and partnerships to address security threats that affect them collectively," he said.
"That is why we are members of regional and international organisations that have the political and legal mandate to address regional, continental and global security challenges".
Kabarebe stressed that addressing the issue of insecurity in the region and on the African continent in general will only be successful if countries work together to develop appropriate mechanisms to check security threats, rather than operating in isolation.
"Many countries in Africa have persistently experienced security challenges as a result of armed conflicts, terrorism, bad governance and transitional crimes just to name but a few. These and other human security-related problems in the region and other parts of Africa require appropriate response mechanism from within the regions or the continent before seeking support from elsewhere," he noted.
Maj Gen Jean Bosco Kazura, the Commandant of the college, said the annual symposium helps students understand the security situation worldwide basing on knowledge they acquire from various experts who speak at the symposium.
"All participants in general and our students in particular will benefit from your wisdom to be able to constantly think from now onwards about courses of action to address the origins of insecurity that many of our citizens suffer," he told the participants.
Speaking to The New Times on the sidelines of the symposium, Kazura assured that since the establishment of RDF Command and Staff College in 2012 the symposium has been an additional tool which empowers student officers to deal with current and future security challenges.
"The symposium is growing bigger, stronger and getting more significant. This is the sixth and definitely we need the seventh, eighth... because things are moving very fast. The security environment is dynamic and complex so people need to always understand the environment in which they live and to find some solutions to different challenges," he said.
Prevention of conflicts
Former Nigerian foreign minister and now the United Nations envoy to Darfur, Prof. Ibrahim Agboola Gambari, called on states to put more emphasis on prevention to ensure that contemporary conflicts are ended and avoided worldwide.
"We have to stress prevention, prevention, prevention because, first of all, it is true that prevention is less costly. If you don't prevent you have tragedies and those who suffer most are women and children," he noted.
Topics of discussion will include interference in African affairs from the outside world, peacekeeping operations, cyber threats, counter terrorism strategies and various topics which deal with security today
Other speakers at the symposium included Justice Minister and Attorney General, Johnston Busingye, the Deputy Director General of Rwanda Governance Board, Dr Usta Kayitesi, and Maj. Gen. Joseph Nzabamwita, the Secretary General of National Intelligence and Security Service, among others.