|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference by Special Adviser on Africa
As the United Nations increasingly called on regional organizations to lead peacekeeping, peacebuilding and conflict-prevention efforts, training centres in Africa were preparing local military, police and civilian personnel to perform efficiently in troubled parts of the continent, the head of one of those centres said at a Headquarters press conference today.
“We are key to the establishment of the various standby forces that have to be used to stabilize our regions in case of conflict,” said Air Vice-Marshall Christian Dovlo, Commandant and CEO of the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre in Accra, Ghana. He was accompanied by Maged A. Abdelaziz, Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Africa, with whom, on Thursday, he had participated in a high-level briefing on “Enhancing African Peacekeeping Training and Research Capacities for Complex Peace and Security Emergencies in Africa”, hosted by the United Nations Office of the Special Adviser on Africa.
Mr. Abdelaziz said the briefing aimed to raise awareness about the role of Africa’s eight major and several mid-sized peacekeeping training and research centres, and to solicit for them financial, personnel and material support from Member States. Mr. Dovlo met with officials from the Integrated Training Service of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations; from United Nations offices dealing with sexual exploitation, violence and gender issues; and from development agencies.
He noted that the focus of peacekeeping has expanded in recent years from monitoring ceasefire agreements between warring parties to more complex operations, entailing, among other things, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants; preventing gender violence; and protecting civilians, human rights and the rule of law. Located in Ethiopia, Kenya, Egypt, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, South Africa and elsewhere, the Africa centres strengthen the operational ability of local forces, particularly in West Africa, to take on such increasingly complex mandates.
Asked which contingents had been trained at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre for the proposed operation in Mali, Mr. Dovlo said that it was troop-contributing countries, not the Centre, which carried out the pre-deployment training of formed military units. The Centre trained the military and civilian individuals who formed those units, in cooperation with the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), he added, noting that 80 per cent of the trainees were from that subregion. Of that proportion, civilians comprised 43 per cent, military personnel 27 per cent and police the remainder.
He said the Centre had trained troops from Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso serving in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and in the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID). Mr. Abdelaziz added that the main aim of the centres was to increase the number of African countries participating in peacekeeping, which currently stood at around 15, the top contributors being Ethiopia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Egypt and Ghana.
Asked for an update on the status of the African Standby Force and whether the Kofi Annan Centre was involved in training it, Mr. Dovlo said the Centre was responsible for operational-level training of the ECOWAS standby force. An institution in Bamako, Mali, handled tactical-level training, and the National Defence College in Abuja, Nigeria, carried out strategic-level training. The military component of the West African Standby Force was ready for deployment, but the civilian component faced capacity-building challenges, he said, stressing that it was difficult for doctors and other health-care providers to step away from their daily duties to train and be available on a standby basis. Mr. Abdelaziz emphasized that the Force was not a standing army, but a leadership and command force in Addis Ababa, set to deploy on short notice from the African Union.
When asked why African peacekeepers serving in AMISOM were paid less than those serving in United Nations missions, Mr. Abdelaziz said his Office was not involved in compensation issues. The report of the Senior Advisory Group on Peacekeeping Operations on that matter had been submitted to the Secretary-General and would be presented to the General Assembly, which would ensure proper compensation for troops as well as for training, transportation and equipment.
Asked to clarify the mandate of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), which had failed to prevent the M23 rebel group from entering the eastern city of Goma earlier this month, Mr. Abdelaziz said the mandate, as set out by the Security Council, was to protect civilians, not to engage in combat. There were ongoing consultations led by the Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support to ensure that the Council and troop-contributing countries saw “more eye-to-eye” on that issue.
As for the extent to which MONUSCO could address regional peace issues, he said such concerns had been addressed at the recent meeting of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region. The African Union had supported the outcome of that gathering, including the proposal to create an international neutral force, which the United Nations was studying.
Regarding reports that many African peacekeepers were killed due to a lack of adequate arms and other equipment, Mr. Dovlo said all peacekeeping missions had set mandates and equipment requirements. Prior to deployment, the United Nations carried out systematic inspections of all equipment, and any shortcomings were brought to the relevant Government’s attention. Problems arose when mandates changed “midstream”, necessitating new equipment, which many African countries could not afford to deploy in a rapid manner.
Up for debate was whether the United Nations, rather than troop-contributing countries, should take full responsibility for equipping troops, he said, adding that the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre focused on operational and logistics planning to ensure that all training adhered to United Nations standards.
Asked whether the Centre worked with civil society to develop peacekeepers’ technological capacity to address human rights abuses, Mr. Dovlo said that some members of its governing board belonged to civil society organizations. Their representatives participated in the Centre’s courses on logistics planning, gender issues, the rule of law and protection of civilians, among other areas. The Centre also had mobile training teams that schooled civil society organizations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Additionally, it offered a course on crisis information management that focused on building early-warning systems to ensure that information reached people on the ground as soon as possible.
* *** *