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When the head of the Nigerien National Training Academy for Gendarmes, Lieutenant-colonel Garba Issoufou, made a call to Anna Lazzari at the EU mission to Niger, it came fully unexpected.
‘I have been following Anna’s training since she began, says the Lieutenant-colonel, and I knew this was what we wanted.’
Anna Lazzari has been training Human Rights in Niger since May 2017 and is the Gender and Human Rights expert at EUCAP Sahel Niger.
‘I was very happy to receive the call from the Colonel’, she remembers. ‘I became even more happy when he asked me to start teaching 202 Gendarmes as soon as possible’.
The gendarmes in question, 202 in all, are receiving training to become special police investigators at the Headquarters of the Nigerien Gendarmerie in Niamey, the capital of Niger.
Anna immediately set about planning.
The Colonel’s view on human rights
When it comes to human rights Lieutenant-colonel Garba Issoufou is clear: ‘It is important that our officers know how to conduct themselves in accordance with the Nigerien constitution, and that they know how to respect human rights when they carry out their work’.
It took a total of ten days to get things organised and get the paper work in order. Then the training started, in teams of 50, training 20 hours each week, in a large amphitheatre next to the Niger River.
Four weeks later the results speak for themselves, 202 gendarmes have completed human rights training and received certificates.
The young Gendarmes
But what about the gendarmes, what do they say? Noma Oumarou, a gendarme in his late twenties, says: ‘Human rights cannot be violated. They are rights we are born with, and rights that we die with. And we, as representatives of the state, are obliged to follow and respect them’.
A women amongst the trainees, Djamila Saley, adds: ‘As part of our training to become investigative police officers we study criminology and how best to question and gain the trust of people who have been victims of crimes. Human rights are a part of the laws governing the behaviour of all Nigerien gendarmes, and this training has given us a chance to discuss and gain a deeper understanding of what those rights mean, for example when we are arresting someone.’
As for Anna, the trainer, she recalls: ‘The young gendarmes are really good at debating and discussing the elements of the training. It has been a wonderful experience to train with them. And as European Union experts we look forward to continue assisting our Nigerien colleagues in any way that we can’.