The New Times (Kigali)

Rwandan Military Deploys Choppers to South Sudan

RWANDA yesterday deployed three aviation units to South Sudan, under the auspices of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

The units that were seen off Thursday morning are composed of three helicopters with a crew of 18 personnel including pilots, co-pilots and technicians.

It is the first time that Rwanda is deploying aviation units to a UN peacekeeping mission.

Part of the new deployment includes the ground equipment that travelled by road and have since arrived in the world's youngest nation.

"We shall also deploy other personnel tomorrow (today) totaling to about 85. These aviation units will be helping UNMISS in terms of airlifting personnel and logistics and they will be conducting rescues and medical evacuation," said Defence and Military Spokesman Brig. Gen. Joseph Nzabamwita.

He observed that having a country deploy air assets is not a simple thing. "Rwanda is among few countries in the world that can now project its power through ground forces and deployment of air forces."

According to Nzabamwita, the fact that the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) has deployed air equipment in a peacekeeping mission was a great achievement which Rwandans should be proud of.

Rwanda is the sixth leading contributor to UN peacekeepers in the world, with over 3,200 troops in the United Nations African Union Hybrid Mission in Darfur, (UNAMID) and 850 with the UNMISS.

"The biggest advantage is not in terms of finances, it is in terms of the pride that it brings to the people of Rwanda. The UN abandoned us in 1994 but we are now busy trying to help others in terms of international peacekeeping," said Nzabamwita.

"We have demonstrated our strength in air force, we have deployed three units and will soon deploy three more; yet we will still have enough power to protect the country," he added.

The country also maintains about 500 police officers in peacekeeping missions in Haiti, Liberia, Sierra Leon, Sudan, and South Sudan and Ivory Coast.

The Defence and Military Spokesperson noted that there has been a 'malaise' in terms of UN peacekeeping missions.

"There are UN peacekeeping missions that deploy heavy equipment and personnel but when you look for the work they do, it is almost irrelevant compared to the financial resources sunk in," he said in an apparent reference to the UN Mission in DRC (MONUSCO), which has an annual budget of US$1.4 billion.

Nzabamwita pointed out that the fact that Rwanda is now deploying air forces adds to the power of nation.

"Air force is an added element of power - training pilots with all kinds of support in terms air medical rescue, ground equipment is a sophisticated endeavour; the fact that we have done this on international standards is no mean feat," he said.

The team was seen off by senior military officers, including the Chief of Staff of RDF, Maj. Gen. Frank Mushyo Kamanzi, who challenged officers to maintain maximum discipline during their tour of duty.

Also present were Maj. Gen. Jacque Musemakweli, the head of J5 at RDF, Air Force Chief of Staff Joseph Damali, and the head of J3, Col. Peter Kalimba.

On July 9, last year, South Sudan became the newest country in the world after seceding from Sudan. The birth of the Republic of South Sudan was the culmination of a six-year peace process which began with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005.

On July 8, 2011, the Security Council determined that the situation faced by South Sudan continued to constitute a threat to international peace and security in the region, thus the establishment of the UNMISS.

The peacekeeping mission has a mandate to consolidate peace and security and to help establish conditions for development.

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