SANDF opens R30m peace centre

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The centre will allow leaders to role-play scenarios and study lessons learned during previous peace missions.The military has opened a hi-tech Peace Mission Training Centre, in Thaba Tshwane, Pretoria, to better school its leadership cadre in the intricacies of diplomacy and reconciliation.

The centre boasts advanced conferencing and simulation software that will allow a new generation of peace mission leaders to role-play scenarios and study lessons learned during previous peace missions. The identities of the vendors involved in Project Restore were not disclosed.

The SA National Defence Force (SANDF) has been a major contributor to United Nations and African Union peacekeeping missions since 2000, and has troops and military observers deployed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda, Darfur (in Sudan) and Nepal.

“This is a capability we had to have as a Department of Defence and as the SANDF,” said the military`s chief of HR, Lieutenant General Derrick Mgwebi, at a ceremony to open the R30 million facility. SA contributed R3 million and the US, Britain and Canada the rest.

Mgwebi, who led a peacekeeping operation in Burundi for a year, added that the centre followed from an analysis of lessons learned. “We came to realise there were certain aspects where we were lacking,” he told an audience, including British High Commissioner Paul Boateng and US ambassador Eric Bost.

“We will be using this facility to the best of our ability to educate and train our officers in key aspects of peace support operations,” he added. Some of us here did not have [the advantage of attending] this facility before. I hope you realise how fortunate you are to have a facility like this,” Mgwebi told the centre`s first class.

The centre plans nine courses, catering for 400 students in the 2008 academic year.

A dog`s breakfast

Speaking at a guest lecture prior to the opening, British Lieutenant General David Richards, commander of NATO`s Allied Rapid Reaction Corps, said ICT was a key to successful military command-and-control.

“Sort out the command-and-control first, otherwise the rest is a dog`s meal,” he said. “That is why this centre is so important; it will emphasise the operational level of war [and peacekeeping],” added Richards, who led peace missions in Sierra Leone, East Timor and Afghanistan.

Boateng said the centre would help “unleash the potential of this great continent [Africa]” and “is there as a resource for the brave men and women” who would be leading SA`s peace missions, present and future.

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