Pearson staffers Logan Crowell, David Forest, Naa Ode Wilson, Denis Vermeirre and Ted Itani are in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia from October 28 to November 9, 2012 to help carry out Exercise NJIWA and are blogging about their experiences. Please see below for their reports.
November 9, 2012
Posted by Logan Crowell
For some, this term, which means “end of exercise”, is a cause for jubilation. Not so much because people were not engaged or did not enjoy themselves; it was more the feeling of accomplishment after doing something particularly challenging.
This was certainly the mood as we officially closed the NJIWA exercise yesterday. After a period of reflection, we began the next phase of the exercise today: the After Action Review (AAR).
At the end of any activity, it is critically important to sit as a group and discuss what went well and what can be improved upon. Without this, you will never be able to identify how to make the next exercise better than the last.
Given that this is the first time an exercise of this type has been delivered not just in Africa, but anywhere in the world, it was very important to get a complete picture of how effectively things were structured and delivered. Based on initial discussions from the AAR, we collectively learned a great deal from the experience.
But the end of an exercise is always somewhat bittersweet. To see the successful conclusion of 18 months of effort is a big accomplishment, for both the African Union (AU) and the Pearson Centre. But at the same it, it heralds the turning of a new page; starting new partnerships and new processes.
With the AU, we have been extremely fortunate to have a long relationship beginning with Amani Africa I. We are eager to continue that relationship as we move towards Amani II, scheduled to be held in 2015.
November 8, 2012
Posted by Ted Itani
The planning process has reached a point where all planning teams have created viable options to deal with the instability in Leppko Province of Carana. At the heart of an integrated mission-wide plan is the restoration of the Rule of Law, the very foundation of Protection of Civilians, and an accompanying logistic and administrative support plan.
With openness, good humour and an unstated aim to work for the common good, the four planning teams have discovered and integrated the individual knowledge, skills and experience of every member to the team modus operandum to achieve common or shared objectives.
Along the way, the notion of Protection of Civilian has been a voyage of exploration, discovery and learning. The team has also forged friendships, as well as productive working relationships that would be crucial for crafting a collective and consensual response to the unfolding events in Mali and elsewhere on the African continent.
The habitual reality is that those assigned to peace support operations usually meet for the first time in the mission area. Here, Exercise NJIWA has given them an opportunity to work as an integrated team comprising police, military and civilians, to either deploy on current missions or plan for missions that are yet to come.
The exercise will conclude today with a review of all aspects of Exercise NJIWA and a Closing Ceremony.
November 7, 2012Posted by Denis Vermeirre
Today is Distinguished Visitors day at exercise NJIWA 2012. It has been a remarkable success.
We were expecting maybe 20 VIPs - more than double came to witness what was taking place here. In addition to several representatives from Canada, I caught a glimpse of the Australian ambassador, the UN Police Advisor and the head of African Union Peace Support Operations Division.
It appears that NJIWA 2012 has really generated a great amount of interest in peace and security circles.
Once again, NJIWA 2012 is exceeding expectations!
November 6, 2012Posted by Naa Ode Wilson
In the world of exercises and simulations, as with any facet of life, one can expect the unexpected.
For instance, it could be the reaction of the training audience to a particular inject (information provided to the training audience aimed at influencing players); or it could be an adjustment to the real-life support component of the exercise. Whatever the circumstances, the key is to remain adaptable without compromising the quality and integrity of the exercise.
Over the course of NJIWA, various such adjustments have had to be made. Initially in charge of running the scenario for the exercise, I am now wearing two hats. My new one is Chief of Scenario and Exercise Coordination on the ground. This has meant, for instance, that I have had to provide briefings on the scenario to different groups, while ensuring that the activities of the various units of the exercise, including the training audience, mentors/role players, exercise control, evaluators and real-life support, are synchronized.
I must say that I am thankful to my team, and in particular to the Deputy Chief Scenario, without whose efforts I could not have been as versatile as the situation on the ground has required me to be.
November 5, 2012Posted by David Forest
Want to know what the daily schedule looks like in Carana? We, the training audience and exercise control team (EXCON), leave the hotel at 7:30 a.m. and arrive at the Eastern African Standby Force Brigade Headquarters (the exercise site) at 7:45 a.m. At 8:30 a.m., we attend a briefing from the Night Duty Officer and the Chief of Staff (CoS). After a review of recent incidents in Carana, the CoS gives guidance to the four planning teams (Protection of Civilians (PoC), Rule of Law X2 and Mission Management). The planning teams then go back in their working room to further develop their plans.
What type of plan? Well, for instance, the PoC team has been tasked with the development of an operational protection plan. To do that, they will have to consider the Carana scenario, the mission implementation plan, daily injects and situation reports, as well as existing AU doctrine, policies and practices. Coming up with a comprehensive protection plan in four days will definitely be challenging task, but I believe the team has the knowledge and skills to succeed. It can also count on the assistance of experienced mentors.
At 4:30 p.m. (yes, yes, of course, we have two coffee breaks and lunch to keep us going…) we are all required to attend the planning teams’ briefing to the CoS. This is an opportunity for the training audience to offer an update on the progress made during the day, share their experience with the other planning teams and address daily challenges.
At 5:30 p.m., key members of EXCON participate in an exercise coordination meeting with the Exercise Director. We usually leave the exercise site at 6:00 p.m., exhausted indeed, but proud of the fact that we have all contributed to peace keeping and building in Carana.
November 4, 2012Posted by Logan Crowell
Things have been very busy over the past week preparing for the exercise, now in its second day. The participants of Exercise NJIWA are members of a fictitious AU mission headquarters, which has deployed to an equally fictitious African country called Carana. Over the next week, the participants will grapple with numerous complex issues found in multidimensional peace operations. To make this happen, a whole cast of individuals are working hard behind the scenes.
Exercise Control (EXCON) is responsible for everything from the scenario, to role-players and mentors, to catering and transportation services, to evaluation. As the head of the EXCON Situation Centre, my main focus is the coordination of the role-players and the day-to-day progress of the exercise.
Simulating a mission environment in a realistic manner means that a tremendous amount of information needs to be produced and provided to the training audience. Mission situation reports, media articles about the unfolding situation, and interactions with the Caranese government are just a few examples of the types of information required from EXCON.
This information is provided to the training audience throughout the exercise. Monitoring how the training audience responds to the information is a key element of the exercise, and we must be flexible and responsive to ensure a challenging training experience.
There is a tremendous amount of energy and enthusiasm present with my EXCON colleagues. They are dedicated to ensuring that the participants receive the most challenging and realistic experience possible. It’s taken us more than a year to get to this point, but the collective efforts of our AU colleagues and ourselves are finally bearing fruit.
November 3, 2012Posted by Denis Vermeirre
This morning, the sun rose on the AU Mission to Carana -- the fictional country that is one of the Pearson Centre's exercise modules.
This is a new adventure for me. Unlike Ted and my other colleagues, I’ve never set foot in Ethiopia. To me, it has until now been little more than the mysterious land where coffee was discovered (see the legend of the happy goat). I am now discovering a new world on this African Continent. I have heard it said that Ethiopians do not really consider themselves fully African – that they are distinct. To a Canadian, this does not seem totally impossible, as we’ve all heard something like this once or twice before. Two facts have struck me in Addis. First, the people have a different step to elsewhere on the continent, an inexplicable yet somewhat different spring to their step. Second, it is probably the most fragrant city I have ever visited. No matter where you are, the wind will suddenly surprise you as the smell of roasting coffee, aromatic wood, or spices wafts by unexpectedly.
It is also a very special professional learning experience. I have written for all kinds of courses and exercises in the past, but I have never until now actually taken part in an exercise. The phrase “dirinking from the firehose” hardly begins to describe what I have been doing for the past few days. The process is complex and sometimes exhausting.
This has been a very busy day, and I am tired, but looking forward to tomorrow, when the sun will once again rise on Carana.
November 1, 2012
Posted by David Forest
Second day of induction training
Today, the training audience and the exercise control team (EXCON) participated in the second and last day of the induction training program. Having gone through induction training with the UN in Burundi, I know this will give them a better understanding of the mission’s background, mandate, activities as well as its main successes and challenges. However, induction training can only complement the knowledge and skills acquired by peacekeepers through their professional career and during their personal and organizational pre-deployment preparations. You can’t learn to drive stick shift in two days, you can’t learn Amharic in a week…and you can’t understand the dynamics of a conflict, the mandate of a large multidimensional mission and the role you are expected to play in it in two days.
So, going back to today’s program; the Induction Director and the speakers highlighted the role of the mission leadership, emphasized the importance of communication, cooperation, coordination and collaboration (the 4Cs) among mission actors; presented the mission coordination mechanisms and finally outlined the process for the Exercise After Action Review.
In order to digest all this info and the exercise background material, the training audience will have a "stand-down" day tomorrow. EXCON will be standing up….
October 31, 2012
Posted by Ted Itani
Ethiopia has entered into a new phase, since my first visit in 1988 on a famine relief mission, Operation Nile, under the auspices of the United Nations Disaster Relief Organisation (UNDRO).
The passage of 24 years has wrought significant changes to Ethiopia and to the Continent. Today poverty is not so visible, there is no curfew, there is a great deal of construction, and then as now, the streets bustled with the comings and goings of an energetic and vibrant people, obtaining higher education and partaking of increasing prosperity that is visible everywhere.
The Organisation for African Unity (OAU) was disbanded in 2002, and in its stead a new, dynamic institution, the African Union (AU) was created. Unity, solidarity, cohesion and cooperation on the African continent are expected to reach unprecedented levels. Exercise Njiwa, a police –civilian exercise under the auspices of the Peace Support Operations Division (PSOD) of the AU is merely one of the manifestations of what is yet to come. Today, after the opening ceremonies the exercise paricipants will undergo induction training to put them on a common footing, to deal with some of the seemingly intractable problems that contemporary peacekeepers face, be they police, military or civilian. They will learn and practise a holistic, comprehensive and coordinated approach to peace operations.
October 30, 2012
Posted by Naa Ode Wilson
A year and a half ago, our team sat across from our partners at the African Union (AU) Headquarters in Addis Ababa, as we had done numerous times over the years in our collaborative work in Peace Support Operations training. On the agenda? How to develop and deliver an exercise that would meet the unique capacity-building needs of the police and civilian components of the African Standby Force. After numerous planning meetings and coordination phone calls, tireless exercise and scenario development and scripting, and the ingestion of much Njera (the Ethiopian staple food), the police and civilian-focused exercise codenamed NJIWA will officially commence tomorrow – October 31, 2012.
In the week since our team has been on the ground, we have worked with the AU and partners to troubleshoot challenges: readying personnel for the training audience and exercise control, scripting specific roles, setting up facilities, rolling out the exercise plan and media strategy, and much more. Today we welcomed the training audience, evaluators and mentors, running the latter through a briefing clearly articulating the exercise conduct. As NJIWA kicks off, I am convinced that the many skills represented here from all across the African continent and beyond will make NJIWA a great vehicle on the road towards operationalization of the African Standby Force.