Kigali, 10 October 2017
The Rwanda Peace Academy (RPA) in partnership with the British Peace Support Team, Eastern Africa (BPST-EA) is conducting a two weeks regional course entitled “Genocide, Mass Atrocity Crimes and Transitional Justice in Peace Support Operations (PSO)”.
The course opening ceremony was presided over in Kigali by the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen Patrick Nyamvumba together with the UK High Commissioner in Rwanda, H.E William Gelling on 10 October 2017. According to RPA authorities, the objective of the course is to equip the military, police and civilians with skills and knowledge to address genocide and mass atrocity crimes by developing effective, contextual and appropriate transitional justice strategies and mechanisms.
The course will be attended by 24 senior military, police and civilian officials from 7 African countries; Ghana, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia and Rwanda.
General Patrick Nyamvumba, who was from 2009 to 2013, the Force Commander of the United Nations African/African Union Hybrid Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) deplored the continued violence and mass atrocities in different parts of the world and most importantly in Africa.
He told participants that as peacekeepers and leaders they are expected to intervene and provide advice to prevent genocide and contribute to the capacity development of judiciary system in their countries of origin but also in the countries where they will operate in the PSO missions.
General Nyamvumba informed the officers on the challenging environment where they are called for peacekeeping duties, urging them to be cautious and respond to high expectations invested in them. “Members of local population and International Community have high expectations in peacekeepers both in protection of civilians and jurisdiction administration”.
The CDS said that after the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, Rwandans chose to use the Gacaca justice system because trials in classical courts could take a very long time, over 350 years, and yet the number of genocide perpetrators was overwhelming, over 150 thousand of people implicated. In addition, he pointed out that it would have been very costly and that justice resulting from conventional courts would have been punitive rather than restorative. “What the Rwandan society needed was a justice system that could address the problem of impunity while at the same time promoting unity and reconciliation as well as social harmony”, he said.
The CDS urged the course participants to draw lessons from such case studies, noting that the experience of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda offers some useful lessons and home grown solutions to learn from. He noted that while rebuilding itself from ashes, Rwanda has become a coherent and resilient society.
The High Commissioner of the United Kingdom (UK) to Rwanda, H.E William Gelling thanked the RPA for hosting the course and hailed the academy’s good co-operation between BPST-EA and RPA. He further reiterated that the diversity of course participants was encouraging and a result of good cooperation between the RDF, RPA and the BPST – EA. HE Gelling said that the UK is committed to this type of training and will continue working with its African friends to develop the capacity of peace support personnel from the continent.
After the opening ceremony, the course participants were privileged to follow a session by one of the major facilitators, Lt Gen Romeo Dallaire who shared with them his experience in peacekeeping and most importantly the sad experience of how the International Community abandoned Rwanda during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi while he was the Commander of the United Nations Mission in Rwanda known as UNMIR.
In the morning before the course opening ceremony, the course participants had the opportunity to visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial for them to get the vivid testimonies on how the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi was planned, prepared and conducted. The course will be officially concluded on the 20 October 2017.