A cohort of twenty-six military officers from seven East African Standby Force (EASF) member states Monday started a training course entitled 'United Nations (UN) Military Expert on Mission' at Rwanda Peace Academy in Musanze District.
Participants were drawn from Comoros, Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti, Sudan, Uganda, and Rwanda.
The three-week course, according to officials, 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.
The Head of Training at Rwanda Peace Academy, Maj. Marcel Mbabazi, underscored the importance of the training.
"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 conflict," he said. "For example, they monitor and verify ceasefire violations as well as human rights violations."
Maj. Allan Musili Kevogo from Kenya Defense Forces says the take-home knowledge from the UN Military Expert on Mission Course would be very crucial in his endeavors. Régis Umurengezi
They carry out various investigations and report on routine and special circumstances, he added.
"Military observers are also supposed to resolve local issues between the warring parties."
Based on the course curriculum, the participants will be equipped with UN mandatory-related topics, they will also undertake intensive practical exercises which will be reflecting the reality that military personnel face at complex peacekeeping grounds among other courses.
The Joint Chief of Staff at the Eastern Africa Standby Force Planning Element, Maj Gen Charles Rudakubana, said the course was initially meant to be conducted in Sudan but the country faced some constraints, which prompted EASF to ask Rwanda to host it.
Participants of the UN Military Expert on Mission Course follow remarks from various officials at the Rwanda Peace Academy during the course opening ceremony on Monday. Régis Umurengezi
"This course is important for two reasons; first is that we enjoy the support from Rwanda Defence Force that provides the course facilitators, logistics and role players for free. The second reason is that the practical exercises take place in real situations in communities contrary to using simulated villages," Rudakubana stated.
He reiterated the importance of the course to future peacekeeping operations and urged participants to take advantage by learning from instructors and facilitators so that once deployed they will bring about positive changes.
"This is a foundational course; the catchword here is 'experts', I therefore urge you to put all the necessary efforts to gain the required knowledge so that you will deliver as experts once you are deployed either in UN or AU missions," he told the course participants
"I know you have diverse knowledge and experiences, please exchange, share and, more importantly, make friends and build networks, this friendship will be a tool for your working relationship once you meet soon or later in a peacekeeping environment."
The trainees welcomed the course saying it was timely.
Participants of the United Nations (UN) Military Expert on Mission course pose for a group photo at Rwanda Peace Academy premises in Musanze District. Régis Umurengezi
"We expect at the end of the course to be able to have learnt and gained a lot in terms of military peacekeeping operations and military missions in whatever areas that we will deploy in," noted Maj. Allan Musili Kevogo, from Kenya Defence Forces
According to information from EASF Secretariat, the UN Military Expert on Mission course was previously conducted in three member states; Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda.
The course is funded by the Government of Sweden under the Nordic Defence Cooperation through the Nordic Advisory and Coordination Staff (NACS) as well as the EASF.