THE Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olanisakin, has lameneted that despite the best intentions of the military in the ongoing counter terrorism and counter insurgency operations in the North-East and South-South, accidental harm to innocent civilians can occur.
The CDS, who made this declaration at a two-day high level inter-agency dialogue on strengthening civilian protection policy and practice, noted that civilians harm remains a tragic reality in any conflict, especially in conflicts without clear battlefields, where it becomes difficult to distinguish between combatants and civilians.
The CDS, who was represented by the Chief of Administration Defence Headquarters, Rear Admiral Adewole Dacosta, said civilians might face daily threats of violence and death when they are inadvertently caught up in the middle of a conflict.
According to him, while some outright lose their lives as a consequence of the conflict, others are forcibly displaced thereby losing their means of livelihood and property.
According to him, protecting civilians during conflicts is important, saying it facilitates post-conflict development assistance and integration, and that it also creates a conducive atmosphere for humanitarian organisations to operate in the conflict areas, being a humanitarian obligation.
The CDS disclosed that the implementation of civilian protection measures would better position them to achieve their objective of restoring security, while minimising casualties among their personnel and preventing incidental harm to civilians.
The CDS noted that “the seriousness with which the issue of civilian protection in conflict is viewed by the international community, reflected in the over 30 meetings held by the security council on protection of civilians from 1999 up to 2013.”
He added that one of the outcomes of the meetings is the production of an aide-memoire to guide the conduct of peacekeepers in all United Nations operations, adding that they intended to key into these and other best practices as benchmarks for our future operations.
In his remark, the Chief of Training and Operation (CTOP) DHQ Major-General Ahmed Muhammed declared that collateral damage remains one of the challenges encountered in ongoing kinetic operations to further isolate the insurgents and deny them freedom of action.
He said efforts were being made to avoid collateral damages, as the techniques for mitigation vary depending on the theatre of operation and the service involved.