Rwanda has a very special place in the Dallaire Institute’s heart. It was in Rwanda where our founder, General Romeo Dallaire, first encountered children who had been recruited and used as soldiers. That indelible experience led the General to delve deeply into the topic during his fellowship at Harvard University, eventually leading to the establishment of what would become the Dallaire Institute for Children, Peace, and Security.
Rwanda’s experience with the 1994 genocide, its recovery, and the professionalization of its military make it a strong and influential voice in the region. Driven by those catastrophic experiences, Rwanda has become a world leader in peacekeeping (currently the third largest contributor), dedicating troops and other resources to African Union and United Nations missions in areas where the rights of children are significantly at risk.
Rwanda also demonstrated real leadership by being the very first country to endorse the Vancouver Principles (a set of political commitments on the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers, developed by the Dallaire Institute in partnership with the Government of Canada).
Since 2012, the Dallaire Initiative has been conducting training with the Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF) on preventing the recruitment and use of child soldiers.
Dallaire Institute African Centre of Excellence
Rwanda is the home of the Dallaire Institute’s African Centre of Excellence (the “COE”). This is the key hub for the programmatic work of the Dallaire Institute throughout Africa.
This COE is building upon the lessons, relationships, and knowledge that the Dallaire Institute had already established in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda, and also supports our work with the African Union to advance a global Children, Peace, and Security agenda. The COE will allow for solutions that are locally driven, helping us deliver African solutions to African challenges.
Since opening its doors, the Dallaire Institute’s African COE in Rwanda has made significant strides toward building capacity in the region to prevent the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict.
In 2021, the COE in Kigali looks forward to many exciting projects (such as working with the Government of Rwanda and the Government of Canada to host the 3rd annual Knowledge for Prevention Workshop on Early Warning and Early Action).
Challenges during a pandemic
When Covid19 restrictions affected the standard method of conducting trainings, the COE developed a creative solution with support from the Rwandan Defence Forces. Together, they developed an online training course to provide members of the RDF with the administrative and managerial skills to independently lead the Dallaire Institute’s Basic Course on the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers.
This virtual training allowed for the continuation of this critical training throughout the pandemic, which children are even more vulnerable to recruitment.
Where it was safe to do so, in-person trainings were held for both active and reserve forces throughout the year at the Rwanda Military Academy and the Rwanda Peace Academy. The COE helped organize and facilitate work outside of Rwanda, such as a large African Union Capacity Building Project held in the Democratic Republic of Congo.