Kigali, 28 May 2015

President Kagame today officially opened the International Conference on Protection of Citizens taking place in Kigali. The two day event brings together top peacekeeping contributing countries, financial contributing countries and the United Nations to discuss how UN Peacekeepers can effectively implement the protection of civilians’ mandate.

President Kagame pointed out that the responsibility of peace operations is the protection of civilians before anything else:

“The central purpose of peace operations is the protection of civilians. It is not the protection of peace agreements or U.N. mandates, even peacekeepers for that matter, much less the protection of politicians. The mission is to protect the ordinary people most at risk.”

“The responsibility to protect our citizens lies first and foremost with the state concerned but it does not stop there. Military intervention is always the last option. Other forms of engagement can be effective provided we act early enough. We therefore need to keep improving our ability to detect and share critical information about threats to civilian life. We all have a stake in more effective peace building,” President Kagame added.

Citing the essential role of inclusion in Rwanda’s reconstruction, President Kagame noted that to peacekeeping should enable dialogue to ensure peaceful transition:

People need to be able to stay together, and talk to each other, for however long it takes to find lasting solutions to their own problems. Without security, it is impossible to conduct the inclusive dialogue and consensus-building upon which every sustainable post-conflict transition rests. Peacebuilding cannot be a euphemism for wishful thinking or procrastination in addressing root causes of conflict,” President Kagame added.

President Kagame concluded by challenging all participants to address challenges still facing peacekeeping including slow deployments, vague mandates and unclear rules of engagement.

The meeting is a follow-up to the high-level summit on peacekeeping operations co-hosted by President Kagame alongside the US Vice President and the UN Secretary General in September 2014, on the margins of the 69th UN General Assembly.

The Kigali conference and the numerous regional peacekeeping conferences that have taken place will in September 2015 conclude with a High-level Summit co-hosted by President Kagame and President Obama.