By Christine Muchira
Military officers of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) have been urged to always take precautionary measures while conducting operations, to protect civilians especially women and children.
Col. Shadrack Othieno Mutacho, the Acting AMISOM Chief of Staff was speaking during the closing ceremony of the three-day training workshop for AMISOM focal persons for the human rights cluster, last Saturday.
He said that in the modern contemporary military operations, the protection of human rights should take centre stage. He called on AMISOM officers to ensure transparency, accountability and responsibility of their actions and operate within the scope of the law during the day-to-day execution of their duties in military operations.
Colonel Othieno said, “The military of today has to comply with the law. When it comes to gender issues, women and children are considered to be a vulnerable group and therefore whatever we do, we must ensure that this group is protected. However you may find a few elements that may cross the line. If you happen to come across such elements, it’s good to handle them within the law and be able to at least give them and accord them the necessary respect they deserve, so that whatever we do is transparent.”
The workshop attracted at least 15 participants from the AMISOM contingents of Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, including Colonel Ali Nouhou, the AMISOM Chief of Training.
According to Dr. Omar Abdulle Alasow, the Acting Head of AMISOM Protection, Human Rights and Gender Cluster, the training aimed to apprise the officers and enhance their understanding of the protection, human rights cluster’s activities, the international humanitarian law governing the conduct of AMISOM military operations, international human rights law applicable in armed conflicts, issues of child protection, gender, prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse and AMISOM rules of engagement.
Other topics covered during the training included the Somali national human rights laws, standard operating procedures on detainee handling, the AMISOM board of inquiry policy and procedures, amongst other topics.
Dr. Alasow, who is also the Senior Adviser on International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights to the Head of AMISOM, urged the officers to apply what they have learned during the three-day training, adding that they were the eyes and ears of the Mission on human rights matters.
“As the protection cluster, you are our eyes and ears in the Mission; and as our focal persons, we are going to contact you. I therefore ask you to make sure that whatever you have learned from this training is implemented and disseminated.”