Twenty-six senior military officers from four East African Standby Force (EASF) member states on Monday started a training course entitled 'United Nations (UN) Military Expert on Mission' at Rwanda Peace Academy in Musanze District.
The three week course aims at training those who will later serve in the UN and African Union (AU) peacekeeping operations as military observers, military liaison officers and military advisers, according to officials.
Participants were drawn from Kenya, Rwanda, the Federal Republic of Somalia and Sudan.
The Director of the academy, Col Jill Rutaremara, said the course was important since it attracted participants who carry out a wide range of exceptional functions in peace keeping missions.
Among the functions he cited ceasefire violations, negotiating and mediating with parties in conflicts among other tough assignments which should not be accomplished by anybody apart from skilled military personnel.
"Military observers play a crucial role in mission areas that are in most cases complex and characterised by accusations and counter-accusations by parties to conflicts," noted Rutaremara
"For example, they monitor and verify ceasefire violations as well as human rights violations. They carry out various investigations and report on routine and special circumstances. Military observers are also supposed to resolve local issues between the warring parties," he added.
The first two weeks the course will be used to brief course participants on UN mandatory-related topics while the last week will be used in intensive practical exercises which will be reflecting the reality that military personnel face at complex peace keeping grounds, according to officials.
The Joint Chief of Staff at the Eastern Africa Standby Force Planning Element, Maj Gen Charles Rudakubana, reiterated its importance to future peace keeping operations and urge participants to take its advantages by learning from instructors, facilitators so that once deployed at any peace keeping mission they will bring about positive changes.
"To be called an expert is not to come here and show a certificate after three weeks," he told the senior military officers.
"To be an expert you need to have expert knowledge and that's why I urge you to put efforts in this course and get the maximum from your facilitators, from among yourselves with your different backgrounds and from your own research after classes".
The trainees welcomed the course saying it was timely stressing that the take-home knowledge would be very crucial in their endeavors.
"I have never been to any peacekeeping mission but I expect to be knowledgeable of all related knowledge concerning military observers duties and how to act in the field of peace keeping mission and a difference that a military personnel makes in this kind of mission," said Lt Col Yasser Othman from the Sudan Defense Forces
Major Jeannette Musabyimfura from Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) echoed Lt Col Othman sentiments stressing: "The course is very crucial given that it will equip us with the required UN and AU expertise that will enable us to perform our duties professionally while on peace keeping missions".
The course was funded by the Government of Sweden under the Nordic Defence Cooperation through the Nordic Advisory and Coordination Staff (NACS) as well as the EASF.