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The State Department's Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) program helps African peacekeepers to learn negotiation, mediation, and communication skills that can be used across the continent. USIP's portion of the program focuses on ways to give these peacekeepers alternative ways to confront conflict.

Adamu Garba Laka, a lieutenant colonel in the Nigerian Army and a one of the hundreds of African peacekeepers who have taken the ACOTA course, spoke briefly about how the class helped him to understand conflict negotiation and mediation and how he has tried to pass that along to his own students at the staff college at which he teaches.

Nigeria, by the way, is the primary contributor of troops to African peacekeeping missions and is playing a leading role in Darfur. Understanding just who to talk to is key – and then communicating effectively with those parties is central to the effort.

"I have been able to really understand the techniques of negotiation and communicating with various parties," he says. One former student called him after taking the course Laka taught based on the USIP training he received.

"The major who was in charge of a certain area in Sudan called me after his deployment and told me how he used such skills to get to convene certain parties to agree to certain demands with the U.N.," he says.

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