Spotlight: Training is vital for effective AU peace support operations

Peace missions are key to managing conflicts, and ISS contributes by training police deployed on these assignments.

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) and its partners have played a vital role in building the capacity of police officers posted to conflict flashpoints across the continent. Through the Training for Peace (TfP) programme, the ISS works with the African Union (AU) Commission, regional economic communities (RECs) and governments to respond to conflicts.

Africa is saddled with insurgencies, terrorism and violent clashes that affect countries from Somalia and Mali to Libya and Mozambique. It’s not surprising then that half of the United Nations’s (UN) 12 active peace operations are in Africa. These six operations exclude the UN political missions in Libya, Sudan, and Somalia, and regional interventions such as the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the Multinational Joint Task Force against Boko Haram.

The role of the AU in preventing, managing and resolving violent conflicts has increased dramatically since the beginning of the 2000s. The failure to prevent the 1994 Rwanda genocide alarmed leaders on the continent who adopted the principle of ‘Africa solutions for African problems’ to prevent further disasters.

The AU established the African Standby Force in 2003 to rapidly respond to clashes using peace support operations (PSOs). The force has faced difficulties getting off the ground, but other PSOs have been deployed in countries such as Burundi, Sudan and Somalia. AMISOM is the longest running and largest in size. Since 2007 it has worked to degrade the violent extremist group al-Shabaab and build capacity in Somali security institutions, including the police.

For PSOs to succeed in a changing security context, harmonised and standardised training is vital

For PSOs to achieve their goals in difficult and changing security contexts, their members must be well prepared. Missions are made up of soldiers, police and civilians from many different countries, which makes a harmonised and standardised training curriculum vital. While the training itself is the responsibility of states and regional organisations, the AU Commission provides training policies, directives, standards, guidelines and curricula.

The ISS Training for Peace programme has for over 15 years collaborated with the AU Commission to deliver on this mandate. The programme helped develop pre-deployment training for police in AMISOM, and courses on gender mainstreaming and dealing with sexual and gender-based violence in PSOs. Courses for trainers on these packages were also provided.

In 2019 an AU generic pre-deployment training package for police was developed with the British Peace Support Team-Africa (BPST-A). It includes a reader manual, facilitator guide, participant’s journal, videos and presentations and has been translated from English into French and Arabic.

The package was officially adopted by the AU Commission in February 2020 as the standard for all regional bodies and states. Sivuyile Bam, Head of the Peace Support Operations Division (PSOD), urged regional organisations and governments to ‘use the training package to train all individual police officers who have undergone and passed the mandatory assessment for mission service in AU PSO.’

The project has enhanced national, regional and continental policing partnerships across Africa

Using the pre-deployment package, the AU Commission – with support from the ISS/TfP, Danish Police, BPST-A and the UN Office to the AU – delivered train-the-trainers sessions for police. Three 12-day courses were run for the East African Standby Force (EASF), Economic Community of West African States and Southern African Development Community in 2020 and 2021. In total, 72 police training officers from 33 countries (27 of whom were women) completed the course. Planning is underway to provide the same courses for the North African Regional Capability and Economic Community of Central African States in 2022.

Regional organisations have also started using the AU standard training package. In September 2021, the EASF police component – with technical support from the Danish Police – trained 47 participants from countries in the region. ISS/TfP was invited to observe the two-week course. Senior Researcher and Training Coordinator Meressa K Dessu noted that ‘Course facilitators have applied all the knowledge and skills they learned in the training of trainers course.’

The project has enhanced policing partnerships across Africa, from national to regional and continental levels. Although many organisations collaborated, the ISS/TfP and BPST-A played key roles. Steven O’Donoghue, BPST-A Police Advisor said that ‘ISS provided a credible route to market in the delivery of prioritised training and capacity development for the African Union, RECs/RMs and the member states.’ 

The AU Commission needs to develop and standardise other pre-deployment and in-mission training, such as for the Formed Police Units and Police Professional Staff. The ISS/TfP will continue supporting these efforts.

For more information contact:

Meressa K Dessu, ISS: [email protected]; +251 911 996163

Photo: AMISOM/Flickr

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