By Maniraguha Ferdinand
Rwanda’s Chief of Defense Staff General Patrick Nyamvumba has stressed that United Nations need to revise its systems of peacekeeping which don’t give immediate means to save lives.
He raised the issues on Wednesday at the seventh national Security Symposium (NSS) that took place in Musanze District, Northern Rwanda.
Commenting on the theme which focused on Protection of Civilians in Peace Keeping Operations, Gen. Nyamvumba who once commanded UN peacekeeping operations in Darfur, Sudan, criticized the current systems which don’t promote urgency to protect those in need.
“The lesson I learnt is that in the UN, If you do not exercise personal restraint, it is very easy to lose your mind. We have a system that is very bureaucratic, that does not give you the means to intervene immediately to save lives,” he emphasizes
He said that Rwandan peacekeepers learned a lot from the failure of the UN peacekeepers during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi which claimed the lives of more that one million civilians.
Rwanda is one of the first three countries that have more personnel in peacekeeping operations worldwide.
General Nyamvumba urged the UN to give full responsibility peacekeepers on the field, while giving them more access to facilities and right to take decisions.
“When peacekeepers are deployed they have big ambitions but they can’t do everything. UN needs reform, circumstances have changed and I think it is inevitable for it to change,” he said.
“Most of the issues that commanders on the field face when they make mistakes out of cowardice or inexperience and the UN is blamed and there are incidents where commanders have to take the right decision and they aren’t backed by the UN headquarters, he added.
Ambassador Hadiza Mustapha, the advisor of Chairperson in the African Union Commission on Peace, Security and Governance advises the UN and its organs to learn from the current mistakes and changes to better prepare for future peacekeeping missions.
She said that looking at current conflicts in Africa, civilians have to be equipped with abilities to protect themselves instead of waiting for the UN troops.
“We should prepare peacekeepers in the context of information age. Peacekeepers of the future should build resilience of the civilians. We have to encourage the civilians to conquer fear. It is very important for us to teach local population how to protect themselves without holding arms.”
Amb Jean Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations recognizes the challenges that face current systems of peacekeeping and the need for change.
“We have to concentrate the efforts, we cannot deal with any every local incident, that is the reality,” he said
LaCroix added the UN should look how it prevents conflicts from happening rather than protect after.
There are currently 14 UN peacekeeping operations around the world with more than 110.000 personnel. Peacekeeping costs the UN $7.3 billion a year.