Show Less
Open access

Professional Military Education

A Cross-Cultural Survey


Edited By Duraid Jalili and Hubert Annen

This book brings together non-Western viewpoints on military pedagogy and professional military education (PME). In doing so, it seeks to provide a counterbalance to the predominantly European and North American bias found within the research field, as well as generating new insights on Latin American, African and Asian pedagogical commentaries and critiques. The collection contains essays from PME researchers and practitioners across fourteen countries, on subjects including large-scale educational reform, civil-military and academic influences on military pedagogy, internationalisation, cross-cultural collaboration, and interoperability within military education.

Show Summary Details
Open access

Preparing Officers and Soldiers for the Increasingly Multi-Lateral Character of Conflict: A Case Study of the African Peace Support Trainers Association

Ambassador Brigadier General (Ret.) Marcel R.D. Chirwa

Preparing Officers and Soldiers for the Increasingly Multi-Lateral Character of Conflict: A Case Study of the African Peace Support Trainers Association

Abstract: This chapter examines the six core objectives of the African Peace Support Trainers Association (APSTA), which is designed to coordinate peacekeeping training, doctrine and research across different Centres of Excellence in Africa. It demonstrates the useful insights that have been generated through the implementation of these objectives, regarding the methods through which such associations can contribute to better Peace Support Operations, the type of challenges that these associations must face in seeking to deliver military educational reform, the bureaucratic procedures required to achieve this goal, and the financial inhibitors that may affect the ability for such associations to achieve significant reforms.

Keywords: PME, military education, peacekeeping, centre of excellence, APSTA, peace support operations, PSO


In order to harmonize the peacekeeping capabilities of troop-contributing countries across the African Continent, it is vital for relevant Centres of Excellence (CoE) to provide realistic, individualized and well-coordinated training in Peace Support Operations (PSO). These institutions serve as invaluable training resources for troops preparing for the in-theatre peacekeeping environment. This chapter considers the challenges and successes of the African Peace Support Trainers Association (APSTA) in coordinating training, doctrine and research across Centres of Excellence in Africa.

In the 1992 report An Agenda for Peace, the serving UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali defined four primary concepts for dealing with peace and security. These four elements, designed to create, support and strengthen peace, were Preventive Diplomacy, Peace-making, Peacekeeping, and Post-conflict Peace-building (UN Secretary ←175 | 176→General, 1992, Art.II.20–21). Many related concepts exist within and around these four elements, such as peace-enforcement, implementation of comprehensive peace settlements, protection of humanitarian operations, sanctions, and disarmament. This chapter focuses on the four key elements of the Agenda for Peace, however, as they form the core of PSO training. This training is vital for dealing with the complex emergencies, including population displacement, breakdown of fragile governments, and failed states, that can be generated by interstate and intrastate conflicts.

Although these conflicts can be found across the world, the study will focus on the African continent. The continuing need for multi-lateral PSO in Africa specifically can be seen in operations such as AMISOM (Somalia), UNAMID (Darfur), AU-RTF, AFISMA (Mali), and MISCA (CAR), among others. To meet this need, the African Union (AU), in coordination with Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and Regional Mechanisms (RMs), has designated various institutions as Centres of Excellence for PSO in its five sub-regions: North Africa, West Africa, East Africa, Central Africa, and Southern Africa.1 These CoE are tasked with conducting PSO training “in four key areas, namely: foundation training, pre-deployment training, specialized training and leadership training” (Aboagye, 2014, p.2).

This concept of regional CoE has been recognized by many regional and sub-regional institutions for a number of years (APSTA, 2012, pp.7–8). As noted in its Constitution and its Strategic Plan 2014–2019, APSTA exists to facilitate this development of African capacity for peace and security operations through “multidimensional coordination”, advocacy, harmonization, and standardization of training among member institutions (APSTA, 2014, p.4). This chapter considers APSTA’s six key objectives, and how they are designed to prepare officers and soldiers (male or female) for the increasingly multi-lateral character of conflict in the African continent and beyond. In doing so, it will also provide an insight into the methods by which an association dedicated to professional military education can ←176 | 177→contribute to the development of contemporary peacekeeping operations, as well as the bureaucratic procedures and financial inhibitors which may affect its capacity to achieve significant reforms.

Historical Background

This chapter would be incomplete if it did not provide a perspective on the historical contexts that have led to peace support operations today. According to the Commission on Human Security (2003, p.21), we can include among the “key factors that cause violent internal conflict:

Competition over land and resources.

Sudden and deep political and economic transitions.

Growing inequality among people and communities.

Increasing crime, corruption, and illegal activities.

Weak and instable political regimes and institutions.

Identity politics and historical legacies, such as colonialism.”

Security forces provide a potentially significant means of avoiding, mitigating, or resolving such internal conflict. As argued by Martin Rupiya (2005, p.1) in his editorial for Evolutions and Revolutions:

“In all emerging states that were released from colonial bondage, the most important structure of the government bureaucracy to be created was the armed forces. This is because the armed forces are seen not only as an instrument to address security concerns, but also as a concrete national symbol that represents and participates in ceremonies which confirm the status of the new nation.”

Yet, due to the fact that the “security forces are also the most basic means of gaining and maintaining political power” (Chuter, 2008, p.2), it should be borne in mind that this same political leadership may use the armed forces to preserve their grip on power for personal benefits. Nhema and Zeleza (2008, p.7), for example, argue that

“Wars of regime change are those often engineered by self-described revolutionary movements that seek to overthrow the existing government and establish a new socio-economic dispensation, including conditions and content of citizenship.”

These conflicts have many negative social, political, economic, cultural, and environmental impacts including: undermining social-economic development, collapse of political order, inter-ethnic conflict, oppression, death, ←177 | 178→and displacement of populations. These negative impacts have prevented the realization of sustainable human development and security for many innocent human beings who have borne the brunt of conflicts (Bromwich, 2009, pp.309–311). Such scenarios are unbearable for the oppressed and the disadvantaged and thus require an operating environment that gives a voice or at least a breathing space for communities and individuals. This operating environment must take into account the multi-layered nature of conflict. The Darfur conflict, for example, has three levels of fighting, that can be broadly defined as tribal, national (between Darfur rebel groups and the government), and regional (including rivalries amongst Sudan, Chad, the Central African Republic and Libya).

The relationship between the state and its people, and the legitimacy of the government and ability to provide for the needs of its peoples can either be strengthened or undermined by this range of structural factors. Despite the remarkable efforts and progress being made in conflict resolution and mitigation on the African continent, some areas continue to experience serious challenges; such as South Sudan, Somalia, the Central African Republic, Nigeria, and Darfur in Sudan. Understanding the specificities of various conflicts requires thorough training by specialized institutions, such as those affiliated to APSTA. Without such preparedness, nations, civilians, and even security forces can easily be exploited by the enemies of peace who wish to harm vulnerable populations in conflict areas. In order to enhance the preparedness of security forces across Africa, APSTA has focused on enhancing peacekeeping education through six key objectives (APSTA, 2010, p.2).

Objective 1

“To facilitate the ability of peace support training centers to dialogue with each other”

The core purpose of APSTA is to be a centre for coordination, harmonization, and standardization of the activities of its member training institutions, to help them attain common goals. Key to those goals is the training of leaders that will carry out the mandate of the UN or AU in peace support operations in Africa. Initially, the main challenges that troops and other organizations faced in this regard were the result of a ←178 | 179→lack of coordination mechanisms in-theatre, as each contributing country had its own national defence doctrine. Literature and doctrine on peace operations also focus on the interoperability of different militaries from different countries, nationalities, and cultures. This emphasis on creating interoperability at the “field level” is emphasized by Troeller (2008, p.8), who confirms the need to create a foundational understanding and interface “between the military and humanitarian organizations, their differing roles, institutional ethos, management cultures, agendas and operating imperatives”.

In line with this challenge, APSTA seeks to emphasize the need for its member institutions to engage in regular talks and coordination activities. In order for peace support operations to succeed, this interoperability must be well coordinated at three levels, the Strategic, Operational, and Tactical. As Mark Malan (2000, p.29) observed:

“Military doctrine has a different content and emphasis at various levels of application. At the supranational level, doctrine manifests itself in various tenets of international law – the most overarching, of course, being the UN Charter itself. At a national level, doctrine is often articulated by white papers that explain broad policy guidelines from a political perspective. Operational level doctrine has a somewhat different focus. It concerns itself with the principles that govern the conduct of campaigns and major operations, and imparts understanding. At the tactical level, doctrine focuses more on instruction and training and ensures that commanders have a common foundation on which to base plans for the execution of their mission.”

The agreement to evolve a shared glossary of peace operations terminology to ensure common understanding, adopted by Chiefs of Defence Staff within the Organization of African Unity (OAU), now named the African Union, underscores this critical need for dialogue (OAU Secretariat, 1999). We will consider further recommendations from the OAU meeting in relation to Objective 2 and 3 of the APSTA.

Objectives 2 and 3

“To facilitate meetings and exchange of information and communication between members in training” and “To facilitate efforts in the harmonization of the doctrine and training policies of member institutions in order to have a standardized training program for peace support operations”

←179 | 180→

In line with its second and third key objectives, the APSTA Secretariat facilitates meetings at various levels between member institutions, donors, and other stakeholders. Such meetings focus mainly on information for doctrine and training policies. At the highest level is the Annual General Meeting (AGM), which from 2002 to 2012 has been held nine times by different members in all five sub-regions of the African Continent (Chirwa and Kimani, 2012, pp.25–31). As well as consolidating and sharing information that will help member institutions prepare officers and soldiers for PSO, these meetings provide direction to the Executive Committee and the Secretariat to coordinate and implement new resolutions. As such, the AGM acts as a regional extension of wider international aims to share PSO information on a global level. Due to this, in 2001 the APSTA became a chapter of the International Association of Peacekeeping Training Centers (IAPTC). Chirwa and Kimani (2012, p.7) note that

“as far back as 1998 in Malta, a number of African military officers participated in the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the International Association of Peacekeeping Training Centers (IAPTC). As a natural development, the African delegates to the 2001 AGM of the IAPTC proposed to create an African Chapter of the IAPTC in order to sharpen the debate on peacekeeping training on the continent.”

Since that meeting in Malta all subsequent meetings have been attended by at least one member of the APSTA. The APSTA Secretariat then shares all IAPTC resolutions with its own member institutions, as well as including them on the agenda for the Executive Committee before being tabled at the APSTA AGM. This system has ensured that resolutions are aligned with the recommendations on PSO which were proposed to the AU by an appointed ‘Group of Military Experts’ and which were adopted by the Chiefs of Defence Staff in the 1999 OAU Secretariat meeting in Harare. As noted by Malan (2000, p.34), these recommendations are that:

“All peace support operations in Africa should be conducted in a manner consistent with both the UN and the OAU Charters and the Cairo Declaration.

The OAU should evolve a glossary of OAU peace operation terminology to ensure common understanding.

As a principle, the OAU should take the first initiative in approaching the UN to deploy a peace operation in response to an emergency on the continent. If the UN is unresponsive, the OAU must take preliminary action while continuing its efforts to elicit a positive response from the world body.

←180 | 181→

All peace support operations conducted by sub regional organizations in Africa should be endorsed by the OAU.

Where the OAU deploys a peace operation, this should be an all-African force. In the event of a UN operation in Africa, the UN principle of universality should be respected. Where Africa provides the majority of troops, the force commander must be an African.”

To help achieve these recommendations, the APSTA conducts and coordinates training and research through its member institutions, in conformity with the AU and UN requirements. This ongoing compliance process relies on regular meetings for coordination and standardization, between the APSTA, AU, UN, and other international training institutions (either bilaterally or multilaterally).

Objective 4

“Serve as a depository that offers advisory services to the AU (the Commission and Peace and Security Council) on peace support operations issues”

In order that the aforementioned ideals set forth by the African Chiefs of Defence Staff were implemented, and that African forces were suitably prepared for peace support operations, it was necessary to organize a range of meetings. The engagements between the AU and APSTA date back to August 2006 at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC), in Accra, Ghana. The meetings were designed to provide solutions for the AU’s need to develop and influence conflict resolution across the continent. The AU also wished to build appropriate partnerships with training institutions to enhance the development capability of the African Standby Force (ASF) – an international, continental, and multidisciplinary African peacekeeping force with military, police, and civilian contingents. It was felt that the APSTA could play a key role in capacity building and the development of successful institutional frameworks and training support for the ASF.

This process was coordinated with the Peace Support Operations Division (PSOD), within the Peace and Security Department of the African Union, which is tasked with planning, launching, sustaining, monitoring, and liquidating all PSO authorized by the AU. As noted by Chirwa and ←181 | 182→Kimani (2012, p.10), this started with the proposal by the PSOD for collaboration with APSTA in the following areas:

i. “Coordination and harmonization of ASF capacity building and training among the various regional Centers of Excellence;

ii. ASF Training Needs Analysis (TNA);

iii. Curriculum development for ASF training and harmonization of curriculum among various African training providers;

iv. Training Standards, Evaluation, Accreditation and Recognition training courses/institutions;

v. Development and maintenance of an ASF Training Database of training courses, institutions, and resource persons in various areas of specialization.”

As a follow up to the deliberation of proposals between the PSOD and APSTA after the AGM in Ghana, the APSTA facilitated the coordination of training support for the African Standby Force in Addis Ababa in August 2007. This enabled the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the APSTA and AU in 2008 that set out the modus operandi of the training, coordination, harmonization, and standardization of ASF training. Through that agreement, several activities have taken place between the APSTA and PSOD. As noted by the AU Commission (2014, v), this model of “collaboration between the AU PSOD, RECs/RMs and ATCEs, is an example that should be sustained in the development of other training materials in the future”.

Two notable results of this process include the ASF Training Needs Analysis and, more recently, the AU’s Revised Harmonized Standards for PSO (Aboagye, 2014). The Revised Harmonized Standards especially, are an example of how training harmonization workshops can affect strategic-level policy outcomes. In this instance, the newly adopted standards were the result of two workshops. Firstly, the APSTA Civilian Peacekeepers Foundation Training Harmonization Workshop (Nairobi, Kenya, December 2013), involving civilian trainers and subject matter experts. Secondly, the Police Pre-Deployment Training Harmonization Workshop (Accra, Ghana, May 2014), involving Police training experts drawn from the AU Commission, Regional Economic Communities/Mechanisms (RECs/RMs), the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), other training centres and CoE with APSTA membership, and officials from Save the Children (West Africa).

Yet it is not enough simply to set standards and assume that they will be adopted. In order to enhance harmonization and standardization of ←182 | 183→training for the ASF, UN, and wider PSO across the African continent, these standards require a more accessible format. As a result, the Secretariat of the APSTA is undertaking a project for the development and publication of a Reader’s Manual for the ASF, African-led PSO, and UN Peacekeeping forces. This PSO Manual (Reader) will support the Revised Harmonized Standards for Civilian, Police, and Military Pre-Deployment Training.

Objective 5

To act as a sounding board for the African Union Commission on peace support operations”

As an AU sounding board, the APSTA has participated in a range of ‘sounding board’ initiatives to strengthen the capacity of PSO training. As part of its Strategic Plan the APSTA prioritized several key areas for engagement with the AU, including the need to:

“Enhance, deepen and widen APSTA’s engagement with the AUC, especially the Peace Support Operations Division (PSOD), in the implementation of specific aspects of the ASF Roadmap III and other relevant policies relating to peace and security generally. […]

Enhance multidimensional coordination between all components (civilian, police and military) and crosscutting aspects of the ASF and PSO training generally. […]

Sustain and enhance the capacity of APSTA as a key regional institution in the areas of policy development support towards the operationalization of the ASF, as well as PSO capacity building training, research, publications and dissemination.”

(APSTA, 2014, p.4)

In addition to the above, the APSTA has undertaken many initiatives to enhance cooperation with the PSOD in its capacity building efforts – for instance, in Darfur and Somalia, two key focus areas for the PSOD. Other training initiatives include an AU-EU study on the needs and capabilities of African Training Institutions, participation in Exercise AMANI Africa, and contributions to several meetings and workshops on civilian training in the context of Exercise AMANI Africa. Although this role as a ‘sounding board’ has allowed the APSTA to gain considerable experience over the course of many years, there remains an important need for a common strategic framework for the APSTA to support the AU in its PSO endeavours.

←183 | 184→

Objective 6

“To serve as an instrument for dissemination of research and expert-oriented training particularly within Africa.”

As noted within the APSTA Constitution (APSTA, 2010, p.3), membership to the association “is voluntary and shall be open to all African training centres and institutions whose core activities include the provision of peace support training, rostering and associated research.” As a result, the APSTA counts among its members a range of institutions that train soldiers for PSO. As part of this, the APSTA helps research and submit the findings of their training to key stakeholders, in order to help assess areas such as their training status, the upcoming PSO missions of their trainees, the lessons learned, and evaluation of mission findings. One example of such an institution within the APSTC’s membership is the Malawi Peace Support Operations Training Centre (MPSOTC), which is co-located with the Malawi Armed Forces College (MAFCO).

The MPSOTC provides PSO preparation and training for the Malawi Defence Forces (MDF), as well as Police and Civilian personnel. The MDF participated in peacekeeping operations in 1994 in Rwanda and subsequent operations in various countries such as Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Ivory Coast, Kosovo, and Darfur. The experience and challenges from these operations resulted in the establishment of the MPSOTC in 2004. In line with APSTA recommendations on harmonized training standards for PSO, the MPSOTC conducts various courses for officers including the UN Staff Officer Course (UNSOC), designed to provide officers with an understanding of AU/UN policies, procedures and structures for PSO. This course also provides participants with greater awareness of UN integrated mission planning processes and exposes officers to agencies involved in an integrated PSO environment. During pre-deployment training, the MPSOTC provides UN-standard training modules, produced by the Integrated Training Services (ITS) and approved by the UN Department for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO). Additionally, various other subjects are taught such as international humanitarian law, sexual exploitation and abuse, stress management, and the escorting of VIPs.

←184 | 185→

In addition to institutions such as the MPSOTC, with direct training responsibilities, the APSTC membership includes a number of organizations whose sole focus is conducting research work and organizing seminars, workshops and meetings in order to deepen understanding and expertise on PSO. The research papers from such institutions address many subjects that are often overlooked by international PSO personnel and practitioners. This includes socio-economic and political analyses of the effects of PSO in the mission area. This research provides a firmer foundation for future conflict prevention. It also helps provide recommendations to mitigate potentially negative perceptions of the presence of PSO personnel in host countries, including hostile reactions by a host population. The core goal of such assessments is to prepare officers from all the three components (Military, Police and Civilian) in the mission area. Depending on the specific mission, the research may focus on topics such as the dynamics of integration in the host society, or even the means by which organized criminality and a state of insecurity within the host nation has affected vulnerable populations in rural areas. These areas of research have implications for the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) held by peacekeeping contingents in theatres of operation. Last, but not least, such research can consider the challenges of nation building and social reconstruction, with a view to assessing the opportunities and threats facing PSO designed to assist with national development processes.

Outstanding Challenges

The nature of PSO challenges and requirements vary between peacekeeping operations. Trained and ready forces must adapt to the changing environment of the specific operation at hand, in line with the doctrine and mandate of the UN and/or African Union. The APSTA is still in the early stages of its full potential, and its members face obstacles that need to be addressed and that require further interoperability and common understanding. The most pervasive challenge is that of language. For example, soldiers or officers who come from either a Francophone or Anglophone nation may not be able to understand English or French respectively to a proficient level. Thus, troops deployed in the mission area can have difficulties understanding the languages used locally. This may become a ←185 | 186→dangerous operational issue, and hence officers and soldiers need to possess basic skills in the language or dialect most widely spoken in theatre.

Most APSTA members face obstacles in resource mobilization and the MPSOTC is no exception. In addition to language barriers, challenges are faced in overcoming cultural differences between the troop-contributing country and the host nation. Standard PSO training usually includes principles of planning and organization for the protection of civilians and vulnerable groups, including protection of UN property and personnel. The practical training includes the actual planning and implementation of protection measures for existing threats to the general population. Officers and soldiers are trained in neutrality, reliability, and impartiality during this pre-deployment training. However, national budgets provided to member institutions is limited, and can inhibit officers’ and soldiers’ preparedness for the multi-lateral and multi-cultural character of conflict faced in PSO.


This chapter has attempted to look critically at what the APSTA and its members can contribute in the preparation of trained and ready officers and soldiers. In this endeavour, it has sought to establish the methods which have been used at the policy and doctrinal level for the standardization, harmonization, and coordination of various training institutions across the continent of Africa. The chapter has also addressed the need for the APSTA’s primary stakeholders, the AU, to support the activities of the APSTA, by adopting and approving the work that the APSTA undertakes on behalf of the AU. Alongside this, the chapter has examined the role that APSTA members have in the preparation of officers and soldiers, with particular reference to the MPSOTC.

Ultimately, the responses to current conflicts faced in the African continent may necessitate the deployment of peacekeeping missions with troops that are trained and ready, mandated by the UN and the AU. This requires a foundational level of support for PSO training institutions such as the MPSOTC and others affiliated to the APSTA. Due to the challenges involved in gaining suitable financial resources that have been highlighted in this chapter, it does not appear probable that PSO training can be made wholly efficient and effective with the available means. In the meantime, ←186 | 187→current training institutions must continue to maintain an emphasis on the neutrality, impartiality, reliability, and general discipline of their troops. This is especially the case, considering that training for PSO remains different from the traditional military duties. Make peace happen.


Aboagye, F.B. (ed.) (2014). Revised Harmonized Standards for Civilian Peacekeepers Foundation & Police Pre-Deployment Training. Nairobi: APSTA Secretariat.

APSTA. (2010). Constitution for the African Peace Support Trainers’ Association. Nairobi: APSTA Secretariat.

APSTA. (2012). Historical Outline of the APSTA 2002–2012. Nairobi: APSTA Secretariat.

APSTA (2014). Strategic Plan 2014–2019. Nairobi: APSTA Secretariat.

Bromwich, B. (2009). Environmental Impacts of Conflict: The Loss of Governance and Routes to Recovery. In: Leroy, M. (ed.) Environment and Conflict in Africa: Reflections on Darfur, pp.309–319. Addis Ababa: University for Peace.

Chirwa, M.R.D. and Kimani, M.J. (2012). APSTA Historical Outline 2002 to 2012. Nairobi: APSTA Secretariat.

Chuter, D. (2008). Background Paper IV. International Forum for the Challenges of Peace Operations. Available at:,%20France/Background%20Papers/Background%20Paper%20David%20Chuter_Annual%20Forum_2008.pdf?epslanguage=en (Accessed 10 October 2017).

Commission on Human Security. (2003). Human Security Now. New York, NY: Commission on Human Security.

Malan, M. (2000). Towards an Integrated Doctrine for Peace Support Operations in Africa. Monograph No 46 February 2000, pp.28–41. Pretoria: Institute for Security Studies.

Nhema, A.G. and Zeleza, P.T. (2008). The Roots of African Conflicts: The Causes and Costs. Pretoria: Unisa Press.

OAU Secretariat. (1999). Draft Report of the Second Meeting of the Chiefs of Defence Staff of the Central Organ of the OAU Mechanism ←187 | 188→for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution, Harare, 25 October 1999. Addis Ababa: OAU Secretariat.

Rupiya, M. (2005). Introduction. In: Rupiya, M. (ed.) Evolutions and Revolutions: A Contemporary History of Militaries in Southern Africa, pp.1–5. Pretoria: Institute for Security Studies.

Troeller, G. (2008). Background Paper II. International Forum for the Challenges of Peace Operations. Available at:,%20France/Background%20Papers/Background%20Paper%20Gary%20Troeller_Annual%20Forum_2008.pdf?epslanguage=en (Accessed 10 October 2017).

UN Secretary General. (1992). An Agenda for Peace: Preventive Diplomacy, Peacemaking and Peace-keeping - Report of the Secretary-General Pursuant to the Statement Adopted by the Summit Meeting of the Security Council on 31 January 1992 (A/47/277). New York, NY: United Nations Security Council.

←188 | 189→

1 It should be acknowledged here that there are many notable training institutions across the African continent that conduct PSO training that are not Centres of Excellence.