The New Times (Kigali)

22 February 2013

Rwanda: Kayonga Salutes Peacekeepers

The Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) Chief of Defence Staff, Lt. Gen. Charles Kayonga, has hailed peacekeepers who were serving with the UN peace keeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) for successfully accomplishing their tour of duty.

Gen. Kayonga addresses the returning peacekeepers yesterday. The New Times/ Timothy Kisambira.

Gen. Kayonga made the remarks while receiving the last batch of RDF men and women in uniform who returned from the peace keeping mission in South Sudan, adding that the Juba government had extended their gratitude.

"I met South Sudan Chief of Defence Forces in Addis Ababa recently and he told me you were doing a great job not only in consolidating peace and security, but also in playing a part in different developmental activities, which is commendable," said Kayonga.

The 3 Battalion which has just completed the nine-month tour of duty returned yesterday with the contingent commander, Brig. Gen. Andrew Kagame, upbeat that the mission was successful.

Brig. Kagame said as a new nation, South Sudan needed support in the entire sectors, saying that with the intervention of RDF, a lot was achieved both in peace consolidation and development activities.

"Upon reaching our area of operation, we bought hoes and other equipment to help them in farming," he said in an interview shortly after landing at the Kigali International Airport yesterday.

Brig. Kagame also added that they rehabilitated airstrips in different parts of the country citing Yambio and others to facilitate the movement of nationals.

He said they also provided medical services to local communities and engaged in construction works to revamp various infrastructures.

"This has immensely elevated the welfare of South Sudanese," he said.

Asked about the status of security in the country, Kagame said though some skirmishes were still prevalent - mainly among antagonistic tribes plus the existence of Lord Resistance Army in the nearby Central African Republic - the country was generally secure, especially from external military attacks.

Last week, the first batch of the RDF peacekeepers returned as the rotation exercise of the troops kicked off.

The 850 Rwandan soldiers were deployed in the towns of Yambio, Tumbura, Torit and Juba, the capital.

The mission was set up in 2011 by the UN Security Council to help consolidate peace and security in the world's youngest nation.

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

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 over 850 with the UNMISS.

Last December, the country deployed three aviation units to South Sudan, under the auspices of the UNMISS.

The units are composed of three helicopters with a crew of 18 personnel including pilots, co-pilots and technicians.

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

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