Dal researchers and Roméo Dallaire Child Soliders Initiative return from Central Africa on Congo border
Dr. Shelley Whitman, director of The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative at Dalhousie, and Tanya Zayed, deputy director, were recently in Musanze, Rwanda; one hour northeast of Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Military and police personnel involved in peace operations in conflict zones are often placed on the front lines dealing with child soldiers. They often have little, if any, training or preparation on what to expect or how to deal with the issues arising from this abuse. As the first point of contact for these child soldiers, military and police have an important role to play in preventing their recruitment and use.
Dr. Whitman and Zayed were in Rwanda last week to train national-level troops and peacekeepers on how to protect civilians and how to approach child soldiers during times of conflict. Participants of the training session came from six African countries.
This joint training session between the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative at Dalhousie was particularly timely in this area, given the November 20, 2012 seizure of Goma (DRC) by M23 rebel fighters.
"The current situation across the border highlights the importance for the UN to properly communicate with the community precisely what actions they can take and when. It also highlights the importance of military and police to be properly trained in this issue—there were reports of FARDC [Forces armées de la République Démocratique du Congo] troops handing guns to children in the streets in order to continue their fighting." -- Tanya Zayed, deputy director, The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative at Dalhousie.
"Currently, no individual country or regional organization has yet developed coherent policies, or military and police doctrine, for dealing with child soldiers in complex peace operations. The Child Soldiers Initiative is charting new territory on this issue." -- Tanya Zayed, deputy director, The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative at Dalhousie.
"Currently in DRC all sides are being accused of using children, which also highlights the importance of working with non-state armed actors, as much as national troops. If we ever hope to prevent recruitment from happening in the first place, we must engage with all stakeholders." -- Tanya Zayed, deputy director, The Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative at Dalhousie.
|Dr. Whitman delivering training at a previous session.|
- Krista Armstrong, FASS Communications Officer, 494-6288, firstname.lastname@example.org