Female Soldiers of the Ghana Armed Forces have performed ground breaking roles in the ongoing peace operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Showcasing this, female military personnel are gradually shifting from service support role as previously undertaken to a more complex operational roles in peace operations. This accentuates the fact that the role of female soldiers have evolved within the modern concept of Multi-Dimensional Peace Operations. The Ghana Battalion (GHANBATT) Female Engagement Team (FET) deployed in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Congo (MONUSCO) epitomises such an evolution with the deployment of female soldiers in combat roles. The Team composed of female soldiers with vast experience have developed trust-based and enduring relationships with women and children in the local communities they encounter during patrols in the GHANBATT area of operations in the DRC.
The deployment of the GHANBATT FET is, therefore, an essential operational strategy employed by the Battalion to adequately achieve set the objectives of the mission. This is aligned with the mandate and concept of operation of the MONUSCO Force. Thus, in pursuit of the objectives of MONUSCO, the United Nations Security Council authorised the Mission to take all necessary measures, to support the authorities of the DRC, based on information collection and analysis, and taking full account of the need to protect civilians’, and to mitigate risks before, during and after any military operation.
The FET’s operational responsibilities in the DRC include the conduct of routine long, medium and short range patrols. During such patrols, members of the Team encounter deprived women and children who are a substantial portion of the population of the DRC. In order to effectively engage the population, the GHANBATT used the FET idea to fulfill the Force Concept of Operations in consonance with the UN mandate for the Mission.
The FET is used to conduct reconnaissance and battlefield visualization as part of the operational task assigned to GHANBATT. The operational necessity of the mission requires the FET to put operational analysis into action as a measure aimed at benefiting the communities and to enhance the Battalion’s usefulness in the mission. The Team has therefore, given MONUSCO and GHANBATT in particular an added tool of reaching out to the neglected but very important part of the local population. The FET also carries out targeted operations as directed by the Western Sector Headquarters of MONUSCO either independently or jointly with the Formed Police Units of the mission. The operations are conducted in highly mobile and versatile manner and in strict compliance with the MONUSCO mandate and international law.
The core mandate of the Peace Operations in DRC is Protection through the Projection. The mission has therefore applied the requisite comprehensive intelligence-gathering capabilities using the FET concept by GHANBATT to effectively achieve this objective. Accurate intelligence is vital for peacekeeping operations. Mission Leaders and Commanders utilize intelligence to map out potential threats and identify armed groups and their leaders for effective planning to engage them. Commanders are also required to analyze the types of insurgents, motivations, behaviours and goals, and understand the context the armed groups evolve and operate. The inclusion of the female soldiers of Ghana on combat patrols facilitates better interaction and boosts the confidence of the locals in the communities in the DRC. The FET on many occasions have obtained information that has assisted the mission to conduct preventative deployments aimed at Protection of Civilians.
The GHANBATT FET has undertaken a number of Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC) activities in rural Kinshasa as part of the mandate of the mission. They provided educational, medical and socio-economic support to the local populace. The aim is to Win the Hearts and Minds of the Congolese people. At Menkao IV, a suburb of Kinshasa about (100 kilometres), the FET distributed books to pupils of ECP School and also shared foodstuffs and drinking water to the children and teachers during such interactions. Other communities in the outskirts of Kinshasa the team visited include: Pema, Maluku, Mutiene, Mbankana, Bita and Yumbi. GHANBATT through the FET taught English lessons in the schools at various communities as part of the CIMIC responsibilities. The Medical Team of the FET provided general medical care and dental services among others to the local population during operational visits to the various local communities. With the outbreak of Ebola in the country, the Medical Team used the opportunity to educate women and children on the effective measures of preventing the spread of the Ebola virus. Other CIMIC activities undertaken by the FET include visits and donations to orphanages, tree planting exercise and clean-up exercises in the various communities.
The GHANBATT FET has already proven to be an invaluable assert for the MONUSCO mission. The role that the FET has undertaken over the period include combat patrols, intelligence gathering, educational support and role modelling to women. This has engendered a change of mind-set and whip the enthusiasm of the local population of the DRC. The relationships established by the FET in the local communes has won the hearts and minds of the Congolese people. The confidence of the local population within the local communities has improved as a result of the operations of the FET. In general, the population has shown improved appreciation towards the MONUSCO mission as a result of the excellent role that the FET has undertaken in the GHANBATT area of operations.