African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) Program
February 6, 2013
ACOTA is a program within the Office of Regional and Security Affairs, Bureau of African Affairs at the Department of State. It began as the Africa Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI) in 1997 with the mission of enhancing the capacity of African partner nations to participate in worldwide multinational peace operations. ACRI was restructured as ACOTA in 2002 and incorporated into the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI) when GPOI was initiated in 2004 (http://www.state.gov/t/pm/ppa/gpoi/)
The ACOTA Program Office (APO) manages the program and policies in collaboration with the Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and Africa Command (AFRICOM). The program provides extensive field training for African peacekeepers plus staff training and exercises for battalion, brigade, and multinational force headquarters personnel. ACOTA also provides equipment for African multinational peace operations’ trainers and peacekeepers.
The decision by a partner nation to deploy ACOTA-trained troops is a sovereign national decision. An ACOTA partner’s participation in multinational peace operations normally falls under a mandate from the United Nations, the African Union (AU), or a regional organization such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
As an international partner, ACOTA seeks to complement and support allied peacekeeping training efforts and welcomes their participation in training events.
The ACOTA program training is conducted by Department of State civilian contractors. Additionally, U.S. active duty military serve as mentors/trainers to troop contributing countries.
Typical training packages include command and staff operations skills, multinational peace support operations command, post exercises and peace support operations soldier skills field training. A keystone of the ACOTA program is that all training and equipping is tailored to match an individual partner’s needs and capabilities.
Respect for international standards of human rights is a fundamental concept incorporated throughout the training. ACOTA stresses Human Rights, HIV/AIDS awareness, combating sexual and gender-based violence, identifying and reporting child soldiers and their exploitation, identifying and reporting trafficking-in-persons, and the protection of civilians and innocents, among numerous other humanitarian and gender issues.
ACOTA introduces the partner military to a range of multinational peace operations, such as small unit leadership, convoy escort, checkpoint operations, disarmament operations, safe weapons handling, management of refugees and internally displaced persons, negotiations, rules of engagement and command and control.
Training includes extensive “train-the-trainer” activities to establish an enduring multinational peace operations training capacity in each partner nation. Maintenance of trainer skills and refresher training as required are part of the long-term ACOTA program.
Since 1997, ACOTA has provided training and non-lethal equipment to 254,228 peacekeepers from African partner militaries in 257 contingent units. ACOTA’s 25 partners include Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda and Zambia.
These partners have sent peacekeeping contingents to varied missions such as Sudan (AMIS, UNAMID, UNMIS and UNMISS), Sierra Leone (ECOMOG and UNAMSIL), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC/MONUSCO), The Central African Republic (MISAB, MINURCA, MICOPAX, and MINURCAT II), Ethiopia-Eritrea (UNMEE), Cote d’Ivoire (ECOMICI and UNOCI), Liberia (ECOMIL and UNMIL), Burundi (OMIB and ONUB), Kosovo (UNMIK), Lebanon (UNIFIL), Somalia (AMISOM), Chad (MINURCAT II), and humanitarian relief efforts in Mozambique.
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