The New Times (Kigali)

29 December 2012

Rwanda: RDF Speaks Out On Safety of Peacekeepers

The Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) has reassured Rwandans about the safety of the airmen who went on a peacekeeping mission in South Sudan on Thursday.

The aviation deployment, the country's first under a UN mission, came hardly a week after a Russian leased-helicopter was downed in Jonglei area of South Sudan, killing all four crew members onboard.

On Thursday, Rwanda deployed three helicopters and a crew of 18 officers to Juba, the capital of the world's youngest nation, under the auspices of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), which already boasted 850 Rwandan troops.

And, yesterday morning, another group of 85 personnel flew to Juba on the same mission.

Speaking to Saturday Times, Defence and Military Spokesman Brig. Gen. Joseph Nzabamwita, said that the airmen and equipment will be deployed in safe areas.

"The main operating base is in Juba, which is a safe place, meaning their safety is guaranteed," said Nzabamwita.

The Russian chopper was shot down on December 21 by the South Sudanese soldiers after they reportedly asked the UNMISS if they had a flight coming in and Mission officers denied.

South Sudan has blamed the UNMISS for the death of the Russians.

UN says it is still investigating the circumstances under which the chopper was shot down.

"What should be considered most is that we are making our humble contribution to the security of our African brothers and sisters, and this is what everyone should look at," said Nzabamwita. "We are offering our support from the resources we have."

The aviation units that left on Thursday were seen off by senior military officers, including RDF Chief of Staff (Land Forces), Maj. Gen. Frank Mushyo Kamanzi and Chief of Staff (Air Force), Brig. Gen. Joseph Demali.

Rwanda is the sixth leading contributor of peacekeepers in the world. Besides the RDF units deployed in South Sudan, the country maintains over 3,200 troops in the United Nations African Union Hybrid Mission in Darfur (Unamid), which is under the command of Rwanda's Lt. Gen. Patrick Nyamvumba.

There are also about 500 Rwandan police officers in several peacekeeping missions, including in Haiti, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, South Sudan and Ivory Coast.

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