SCOTTISH police officers are to take their expertise on tackling violence against women and children into the scene of one of the world’s most brutal civil wars of recent times.

Police Scotland will team up with the United Nations-backed specialists on gender-based violence and child abuse in the Rwandan capital of Kigali to develop policing techniques and better protect victims.

Scots officers have recently been drafted into Malawi to assist colleagues who are struggling to cope with a sudden surge in violent crimes.

Women and children in parts of the country are said to have become more vulnerable to abuse from men who demand sex in return for food, shelter or other vital supplies following severe flooding towards the end and the resulting food shortages.

The work in Malawi will also extend into neighbouring Zambia.

It comes as police officers from Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Romania and many more descend on Scotland for training spearheaded by local officers in working with fragile and conflict-affected states.

The course involved academics and specialists serving in EU and UN international missions.

Rwanda, Zambia and Malawi are the Scottish Government's three priority areas in Sub-Saharan Africa to target overseas aid, with £500,000 dedicated to the schemes over the next three years.

It is estimated that more than 800,000 Rwandans were killed during a 100-day period April to July 1994, constituting as many as 80 per cent of the Tutsi population.

After the Tutsis retook control of the country, an estimated two million Rwandans, mostly Hutus, were displaced and became refugees. Armed struggles between the Rwandan government and Hutu opponents in Democratic Republic of Congo have continued to play out through proxy militias.

Although Rwanda has a fair record on equality with 64 per cent of MPs being female, operates a 'gender budgeting' system and has a well-established network of centres for victims of gender violence, there are still significant issues around abuse of women and children.

Superintendent Shaun McKillop, who leads Police Scotland’s International Development Unit, said: "Officers travelled to Zambia and Rwanda earlier this year, at the request of the Scottish Government, where they met with officials from both countries to discuss how we could assist them with training on child protection and gender based violence issues. Following Scottish Government funding approval, a training and mentoring assessment will now take place over the next six months.”

“Taking a more regional approach and developing a programme across the three partner countries underpins our new International Development Strategy. It also underlines Scotland’s global commitment to supporting some of its most vulnerable people out of hardship and poverty.”

Since the turn of the year Police Scotland officers have been deployed to six of the 10 areas in the south of Malawi which they will be working in over the next few years and hope to complete their spread by June.

A number of early recommendations have emerged so far, with the force working with Malawian Police Service to deliver on issues primarily around governance and communication.

International Development Minister Alasdair Allan said: “Police Scotland’s global reputation for developing specialist gender-based violence and child protection programmes has been recognised by the United Nations.

“By sharing Scotland’s expertise with the UN-supported centre in Kigali, it can be cascaded to other African police forces, wider than just those of our three sub-Saharan partner countries."