A group of 34 military officers from nine African countries on Monday started a two-week United Nations (UN) Staff Officers' course at the Rwanda Peace Academy in Musanze District.
The course is being conducted under the auspices of the Government of the United States of America through its Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI).
The course, according to officials, seeks to prepare officers at the equivalent ranks of Captain to Lieutenant Colonel for service as staff officers in the UN multinational and sector headquarters or within national contingents.
Participants were drawn from Benin, Kenya, Mauritania, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, United Republic of Tanzania, Togo and Zambia.
Officially opening training, Col Jill Rutaremara, the Director of Rwanda Peace Academy, said military staff officers play a crucial role in mission planning at mainly operational and tactical levels, stressing need for training.
"This course is important because it will enhance your proficiency in the performance of your duties. It will also enable you to perform various military functions in an effective, professional and integrated manner," he told the military officers.
"The course will orient you to the UN approach to peace operations; this will in return contribute to more effective implementation of the UN peace mandate in particular, the military aspects of the mandate".
Stein Ellingsen, the lead facilitator, explained that during the two weeks participants will intensively be taken through various academic subjects, ranging from cross-cutting issues, introduction to UN peacekeeping principles, human rights, protection of civilians, conflict-related sexual violence, planning process and integrated staff exercises, among others.
Ellingsen told The New Times that the course participants will particularly be trained in consideration of calamities that peacekeepers encounter in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic (MINISCA) as one of challenging mission on the continent in terms of the protection of civilians.
"The mission in the Central African Republic (CAR) for this course is basically the scenario setting," he noted.
"What they are learning will be beneficial for all the missions".
Matthew Dieter, the US-Africa Command J5 in the GPOI, told journalists that the US government had partnered with Rwanda to conduct the course as they would like "to enable all partner nations that the US works with in Africa to be effective contributors to peace process,"
"Our main objective is to ensure that these countries are able to deploy effective and capable officers to MONUSCA and other peacekeeping missions".
Trainees welcomed the course, saying they were confident to make proud their respective countries proud when assigned to participate in any UN peacekeeping mission.
"My expectations from this course is, hopefully, that after participating it will increase our performance when you are asked to participate in United Nations peace support operations as staff officers," noted Maj Mboga Said Mbega from Tanzania
"My country is participating in so many areas therefore as for me and my colleagues participating in this course will increase nation performance of my country because we will have knowledge which is needed in the operations," added Mboga.
Captain Dinnah Mutesi, from Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) echoed Mboga's sentiments saying: "The course will eventually assist us to successfully carry out tough assignments ahead at peacekeeping grounds".