Kigali, 18 August 2015

I am honoured to back here for this second edition of the Africa Unite Command Post Exercise, and to join you in this important initiative to end gender-based violence.

The only way to think about violence against women and girls is as a violation of rights, a crime, and indeed as a threat to progress in Africa and around the world. To call it anything less would only add to the assault.

Therefore, our starting point is that this kind of abuse is completely unacceptable.

These people we are talking about – women – they are our mothers, daughters, wives… what are they not to us? So what debate is there in treating then as decently as we have to?

Our security and defence forces have earned the respect and trust of Rwandans for restoring peace and stability to this country, while respecting and actually enhancing the dignity of each citizen they serve.

We also have worked hard to do what is right, by establishing an institutional framework, that expects the full participation of women in all aspects of national life. The equality of women is a cornerstone of our democracy, and rightly so.

Violence against women and girls not only harms the victims, it also impacts negatively on the well-being of their families and communities. When gender-based violence is left unchallenged, it diminishes the nation as a whole.

We therefore have work together in Rwanda, and globally, to end these crimes. If we don’t, we risk undermining our work to entrench good governance and development.

It requires more than words to protect women and girls from violence. Perpetrators must be held accountable, and those who protect them them, must be shamed.

We need a comprehensive approach to respond effectively. Several things are key:

First, there must be the will both within governments, and within force commands, to make this issue a top priority.

Second, the right mindset and values must be inculcated within the ranks and file of all our forces. This will guide correct and professional conduct both nationally, and in external peace operations.

Finally, there must be determination to act decisively, without fear or favour. Security agencies have the necessary tools, legal or otherwise, at their disposal, and should not hesitate to use them.

Let me take this opportunity to commend the work of the Isange One Stop Centre, which supports victims and their families, while working to prevent future abuses.

This initiative shows what is possible, when government institutions, including the National Police, development partners, and civil society collaborate to find practical solutions.

I have just visited the Command Post Exercise, where I learned the details of this training programme, designed to address gender-based violence.

Let me encourage you now to turn the theory into practice, now and for the rest of your careers. You have no higher calling.

Before I close, I have to state once again that together with others, I am a very proud champion of the #HeForShe campaign. And I am inviting you to join the campaign, for action to deliver timely results.

What it really means is that that men cannot be bystanders in this. As the One UN Representative said earlier, if you are a bystander, I think then you are really a problem, maybe an even bigger problem than the perpetrator. Let’s therefore not be bystanders. Let’s be there for ourselves as much as for the women, and being there for women means we are there for ourselves.

It is now my pleasure to declare the second edition of Africa Unite Command Post Exercise officially open.

Thank you.