Beyond peace will be soon completing its pilot project in Central Africa, aiming at training the Central African Armed forces (FACA) on International humanitarian law (IHL) and prevention of sexual violence. The project is implemented through a partnership with the EU training mission(EUTM) in CAR with the support of UK government. Time has come to start reflecting on our work and what comes next.
Five months in the deployment, we have successfully designed and established the component and we have trained some 800 personnel: 1 infantry battalion, Officers on Leadership courses, NCOs, specialised staff (platoon Commander course; Intel course; CAT 2 course); former insurgents and instructors.
Our training is based on a contextual analysis and it is tailored to the audience and to the operational, legal and cultural context. It utilises a comprehensive methodology: lectures, questions/answers sessions, group work, videos, dialogue and exchanges. The rules learnt through this interactive methodology are then practiced during combined tactical exercises. Progress is measured through the completion of a questionnaire, before and after the training.
Below are some of the stories and the people behind this training project.
- Infantry Battalion
We have trained the 2 Companies of Infantry Battalion 1, currently trained by the EUTM. In addition to classroom sessions, group work and “sandbox” exercises, we were able to introduce a new tool through joint, IHL-military tactical exercises. All 4 Companies of BIT 1 participated in the exercise. We held briefing sessions with the Battalion Officers and the General Staff.
At the question “what did you learn from this training?”, a Corporal answers: “we are learning the difference between a professional military and bandits”.
“Your tactical exercises are adapted to our realities. You know our dilemmas and you are really here to support us”, says a Sergeant.
2. The former insurgents
Beyond peace is contributing to the training of 100 former insurgents who have joined the Central African Armed forces (FACA) as part of the Demobilization, Disarmament, Rehabilitation and Repatriation (DDRR) project. This initiative from the President and the armed groups, endorsed by the international community, provides a sign of hope and dialogue across the conflict divide.
We worked first, in October, with the 10 Officers and NCOs in charge of supervising the new recruits. In November, we started training the team of 100, with their support.
The former insurgents come form various rebel groups; they belong to different religious backgrounds; about 10% are female. They display an incredible willingness to learn and to amend their lives. This morning, I was showing videos about conflict-related sexual violence, in CAR and in other countries. One of them raised their hand: “We have our share in what happened, he said. But now that we are being educated and we understand our duties, we will not do it anymore. We will protect women against this crime. We will report abuse.”
As for the other members of the armed forces, the course looks at the basic principles of IHL (such as: distinction, proportionality, precaution); the protected persons and sites; the need to protect and respect women; the prohibition of torture, arson, pillage, rape; the treatment of prisoners; the roles of duties of military and criminal and military sanction processes.
3. Educating Officers
We contributed to the 2 Leadership training courses organised this semester by the Central African MOD in partnership with the EUTM. Some 65 Lieutenants educated abroad benefitted from these courses and learnt and shared about their duties and responsibilities as FACA. “We learnt that we cannot rape. We never knew that”, said of the Officers.
“We learnt that when an operation is likely to result in failure and in a massacre, we should postpone it and better prepare it”, said another Lieutenant. “I had never thought of that”.
4. Platoon Commanders Course
We co-facilitated this 12-week course together with Lieutenant Zandanga from the FACA. It was a wonderful experience and a privilege to work along such a skilled and committed instructor.
“We love this course because of its unique methodology. We learnt a lot and it’s fun”, said one participant.
5. Train the trainers
As much as this pilot project is successful, it has its limitations because it is a private initiative, limited in time. In order to ensure some degree of sustainability to our project, and in recognition of the great capacities and cooperation from the Central African military, we have trained 8 new IHL/PSV instructors. We benefitted from the outstanding support from UN OCHA and from the FACA through Lieutenant Zandanga for this activity.
We can certify that these instructors are competent and committed and we wish them all the best in their new assignments as instructors.
6. What next?
This pilot project was made possible thanks to the endorsement from the highest CAR authorities and support from the UK Government. Should the EU systematise such components in future CSDP missions? What would be needed? We will be holding a series of meetings early in the new year in order to share ideas and findings to this effect. Contact us if you would like to participate – or to host such a meeting.