Colonel Michael Walaka Hyeroba, the Commander of the Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) Contingent under the East African Community Regional Force received a joint team of researchers from Save the Children and the International Peace Support Training Centre – Kenya (IPSTC) who are on a research engagement at the Uganda Contingent headquarters, Niongera in Rutshuru territory of North Kivu, Eastern DRC.
Col Hyeroba said that the effects of the war in DRC, especially on the children include child labour, abductions and forced conscription into the various armed groups, stemming from the insecurity within DRC.
According to the Head of the IPSTC research team, Lt Col Japeth Madada Mwasaru, the exercise targeted EACRF peacekeepers starting with the force headquarters. Fatuma Ibrahim, the IPSTC lead trainer, said that the research was based on six grave violations that the United Nations is mandated to monitor and report on under the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1612 (2005) namely; denial of humanitarian access for children, attacks against schools or hospitals, abduction of children, sexual violence against children, recruitment or use of children as soldiers and killing and maiming of children.
Officers of the UPDF contingent later had an interactive discussion with the researchers about issues affecting children within the peace and security architecture both as victims and actors in the conflict as enshrined in Article 38 of the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Children. The discussion aimed at furthering the peace and security agenda and also contributing to training and educating the EACRF peacekeepers engaged in peace support operations about the general management and handling of the children affected by armed conflict.
Rutshuru territory, being in a conflict zone for many years, children in the area continue to face numerous challenges that include; abductions, recruitment into militia forces, maiming and killing of children, and sexual violence among others. The research and knowledge attained by the forces about the management of children in armed conflict will help to guide the Peacekeepers on how to handle children victims/witnesses of grave violations and professional steps to take in protecting the children.
IPSTC is an international centre of excellence in Peace Support Operations (PSO) that conducts training, education and research, informing military, police and civilian personnel in all aspects of peace support operations in order to improve the effectiveness of the response to complex emergencies.