Crucial role for civilians in SADC peacekeeping

Civilians have an important role to play in peace support missions where they facilitate the smooth transition from war situations to peace. They provide the necessary support services to military personnel and lay the groundwork for the establishment of crucial infrastructure to ensure a smooth return to normalcy. “Civilians are key in peace support missions because they manage the political and humanitarian offices and their role is to advise other players on how to handle the whole process,” said Colonel Joe Muzvidziwa, director of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Regional Peacekeeping Training Centre (RPTC). Five civilians were part of a group of 30 SADC peacekeepers that completed a three-week course on 31 March at the Harare-based RPTC. The civilians were drawn from government departments and humanitarian organisations. The group comprised five women, three of whom were civilians and two were military personnel. Namibian ambassador to Zimbabwe, Kakena Nangula, welcomed the inclusion of women in the training programme but said “much could have been done to even out the numbers.” Nangula was guest of honour at the graduation ceremony. Namibia currently chairs the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation under which the RPTC falls. A total of 1,330 peacekeepers have been trained at the centre since its establishment in 1995. The target is to have a 4,000-5,000 strong standby force by 2010 that will respond to requests for peacekeeping duties in the 14-member SADC region or in other parts of the world. The 30 officers and civilians were drawn from Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Since 1991, SADC troops have contributed to more than 15 peacekeeping missions within and outside Africa. Zimbabwe has been offering training to the region on peacekeeping duties since 1995. Previously, the centre was a facility for the Zimbabwean government and was transformed into a regional training centre when the Danish government funded the construction of the centre following a request from SADC member states. The formation of a stand-by force is in line with the African Union Commission’s Article 13 on stand-by armies, which requires that each of the five African regions should have a minimum of 4,000 peacekeepers. Nangula said it was imperative that the SADC region continued to train personnel for peace support missions to enable it to adequately respond to conflicts involving member states. “The importance of regional integration and cooperation ‘ and the spirit of ‘prosper thy neighbour’ ‘ cannot be overemphasised. It is only when we are united and speak with one voice that our region can participate in global debates and other activities from a position of strength,” she said. Col Muzvidziwa said RPTC regularly holds joint training sessions involving members of the peacekeeping brigade. The first training session, dubbed Exercise Blue Hungwe, was held in Zimbabwe in 1997, with the second one, known as Exercise Blue Crane, taking place in South Africa in 1999. Tanzania hosted Exercise Tanzanite in 2002 while the last joint training programme was held in Botswana and was code-named Exercise Thokgamo. “The Botswana training session was scenario based. We were looking at practical ways of conducting a successful peacekeeping operation,” said Col Muzvidziwa. ‘ sardc.net

April 2006
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