The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: Peacekeepers Begin Darfur Rotation

The first contingent of Rwandan peacekeepers, yesterday, returned home from the volatile Darfur region of western Sudan in jubilant mood as the rotation phase, expected to last a month, started.

First to arrive were peacekeepers from the 63th battalion, stationed in Zalingei, western Darfur, who will be replaced by troops from the 53 battalion which will also be stationed in the same area.

Rwanda has four battalions deployed under the United Nations/African Union Hybrid Mission in Darfur (UNAMID).

"The rotation has come at a time when Rwanda is on UN Security Council representing a big part of Africa and part of what Rwanda intends to table before the UNSC is how the peacekeeping missions across the world operate as well as sharing our experience as member of the world peacekeeping community," said military and defence Spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Joseph Nzabamwita.

The troops were airlifted by Rwandair's Boeing 737-800 at Kigali International Airport. According to Nzabamwita, the rotation exercise, which started early yesterday at 3am, is scheduled to end on February 14.

Rwandan peacekeeping troops were first deployed in Darfur in 2004 and, currently the UNAMID Force Commander is a Rwandan, - Lt. Gen. Patrick Nyamvumba.

UNAMID officials say Rwandan peacekeepers are exemplary. Apart from helping provide physical security for the people of Darfur, Rwandan troops have also worked to ensure that the social status of the Darfur community improves by introducing Rwandan community outreach programmes dubbed Quick Impact Projects (QIP).

"The soldiers who returned have played a key role in realising our constitutional obligation of ensuring peace not only in Rwanda but also beyond. They also went a step further and helped the people of Darfur. The RwanBatt17 built seven classrooms and two school offices," said Nzabamwita.

He added that, "RwanBatt30, serving in Central Darfur State used their own money to construct a market for women in the Nertiti Locality. Other peacekeepers constructed toilets and educated the locals on sanitation. We do this in context of winning hearts and minds and this draws civilians closer to the military."

The group that was flown out yesterday around midday was seen off by Maj. Gen Frank Mushyo Kamanzi, the Army Chief of Staff, who reminded them that they have to maintain maximum discipline throughout their nigh month mandate.

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