Kigali — Two battalions are to be deployed by the Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) to the troubled Sudanese region of Darfur.On Sunday morning, the first contingent comprising ninety five soldiers left Kigali aboard U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster 111 cargo plane deployed from U.S. bases in Europe as part of an ongoing mission to carry African peacekeeping troops and supplies to the region.
"We will be sending 680 troops between now and July 29 and, 538 others from July 30 to August 9," said Lt. Col Charles Karamba, the Director of Research and Development in the Rwanda Defence Forces. The extra number of these forces will bring the number of Rwandan forces on ground in Darfur to 1756.
According to a release by the US Embassy in Kigali, 'the U.S. airlift is being coordinated by the US European Command Plans and Operations Centre, with NATO logistics response to support the African Union's expanded peacekeeping mission in Darfur with logistics planners at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.'
The mission is part of the larger multinational effort to improve security and create conditions in which humanitarian assistance can reach the people of Darfur, where civil conflict is estimated to have killed tens of thousands and displaced some two million more people.
"It is tremendous to join efforts with Rwanda and the African Union to help them respond to an African crisis," Lt. Col. Scott Shaffer, the Commander of the 86th Air Expedition Group was quoted as telling reporters.
Rwanda , Nigeria and Senegal all have provided troops to help suppress the unrest in the Darfur region.
"The people of Darfur need help and that is why we feel proud to be involved in this mission of trying to bring up peace and stability in the area" added Col Shaffer.
According to the release the exercise that will last for over three weeks will see the cargo plane airlift 'some 1200' making up two battalions supposed to carry out peacekeeping mission in Darfur.
Three U.S. Air Forces in Europe C-130 Hercules transport planes and approximately 150 Airmen from bases at Ramstein and RAF Mildenhall, U.K will rotate Rwandan troops from Kigali, Rwanda to El Fashir, Sudan beginning later this week, the release adds.
About 120 USAFE Airmen and two C-130 aircraft from Ramstein Air Base deployed to Africa in October 2004 to conduct a similar mission. By mission's end, the C-130s had carried approximately 280 African Union troops and 118,000 pounds of cargo.