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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Avoid harming civilians, respect lives when in battle, EA commanders urged

1st April 2012

Whenever faced with operations that involve armed conflict, senior military commanders across the East African Community (EAC) zone should uphold professional ethics by respecting rules of engagement in armed conflict, a top Rwandan commander has urged.

"As civilized nations, we should always desire to prevent unnecessary suffering and destruction during [such] operations," Gen Charles Kayonga, Rwanda's Chief of Defence Forces, said when closing a three-week training course on military ethics and laws of armed conflict for 30 military officers from the EAC member countries over the weekend.

"One party may not care about human suffering, especially of the loss of innocent human lives, like the scenarios of the 1994 genocide [in Rwanda]," he said, urging military commanders to be more versatile and efficient in such operations to limit the damage conflicts have on civilians and whole populations.

He urged security planners to be more vigilant in order to deal with new emerging threats such as cyber terrorism.

Even in volatile peace support operations, where civilians or peace keepers may be caught in crossfire, the rules of engagement should be respected, he emphasized. The training course, held at the Rwanda Military Academy in Nyakinama, was facilitated by Brig. Carl Erdlingher and Dr. Van Baardar, from the Dutch Defence Academy.

The participants shared experiences on military dilemmas, the unpredictable character of field engagements and the chaotic circumstances posing stiff challenges to the observance of legal precepts in the whirlwind atmosphere of advancing and retreating.

The training, a result of bilateral cooperation between the governments of Netherlands and Rwanda, was aimed at enhancing professionalism of the armies to meet challenges in the area of humanitarian assistance and peace support operations.

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