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Police, Civilians Trained for African Standby Force

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The African Union has finished a week of training in Ethiopia for members of its new African Standby Force. The force is due to become active in 2015, though parts of it could be utilized earlier.

More than 100 police officers and civilians from regional African institutions participated in the African Union Police and Civilian Exercise, called Njiwa, for the past eight days in Addis Ababa. These police officers and civilians are expected to further train their colleagues in their home countries and institutions.

The training focuses on conflict resolution in the fictional African country of Carana. But there are no simulated shootouts or fighting.

Instead, the participants of Exercise Njiwa develop plans to assist Carana as it goes through an imaginary, violent crisis.

Hossan Eldin Soliman, a police officer with the United Nations Mission in Darfur, says that even though there is no field practice, the training puts them mentally in real-life situations:

"We have many requests from the government of Carana, which is the government of this mission, to assist them," he said. "We discuss this request from the government, we see how it fits with the mission mandate and then we take action in how to assist the government in the many various areas they are requesting us to do so."

The participants are split up in different teams, one focusing on rule of law, another one on the protection of civilians and the last group deals with mission management.

Kamye Arthur, a civilian, is a planning officer from Uganda. During the exercise, he is part of the rule of law team that develops strategies and interventions.

"The scenario is in such a way that the police in this country, this hypothetical country, does not have the accurate capacity. So what we are trying to do is we are coming up with interventions which are aimed at capacity building of the police," he said.

Raheemat Momodu, the chief of staff for the Njiwa exercise, says planners tried to create a mission environment, even though the participants are spending most of the days in meeting rooms.

"You still have information coming in, pretending that it’s a real mission with issues, with fighting going on, with criminality going on and all that," she said.

Momodu says she is pleased with the progress that has been made. She says that Africa is doing well when it comes to military forces, but is still very weak when it comes to integrating the military with police and civilian components.

“The military is able to achieve cessation of violence. What happens after that," she asked. "The police and the civilians we have to come and to help build that country. So we need to really continuously build the capacity of the police and the civilians to be able to do [deal with] one of the greatest gaps on the continent, which is coordinate our own post-conflicts construction and development of post-conflict countries, which is a bit lacking now," Momodu said.

The African Standby Force is to set to become deployable by 2015. However, General Samaila Ilya, the director of the Njiwa exercise, says the force could be active much earlier if needed.

"For example, if we have to go to Mali, in case there is any deployment that the African Union decides to put in place, we can bring some of them from part of the missions headquarters," said Ilya.

The African Union Mission in Somalia is already using several components of the Standby Force at the staff level.

Article by Marthe Van Der Wolf, VOA News