24 February 2013

Rwanda: Peacekeeping Forces Proudly Rwandan

After serving a nine-month of peacekeeping mission under the UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), Rwanda peacekeeping forces returned home this February 21, 2013 aboard RwandAir, with a much bigger story to tell about their services in the war torn country.

According to the Rwanda's Contingent Commander, Brig Gen Andrew Kagame the mission was a success but the returning troops left a long lasting impression on the lives of people in Southern Sudan.

Besides conducting different activities aimed at peace building and peace consolidation in South Sudan, the troops performed regular patrols and guards to safeguard security to South Sudanese.

Kagame said that Rwandan peacekeeping forces were also engaged in development activities such as rehabilitation of Tambura and Yambio airstrips, rehabilitated bridges, provided medical services to local population and distributed 500 hoes to the local population who utilized them for food production.

"As Rwandans we took our experience to South Sudan and taught them that what is most important for them is to build their country themselves without necessarily awaiting for foreign aid" said Brig Gen. Andrew Kagame.

Among other stories to tell, Kagame said that the forces had carried with them over 500 hoes to help Sudanese communities, faced with hunger, to cultivate food crops. By the time of departure, February 21, 2013, the harvest season was right next door.

A total of 146 RDF troops led by Rwanda's Contingent Commander, Brig Gen Andrew Kagame touched down at Kanombe International Airport at 10,00hrs, making a total of 850 Officers and men who have safely returned home after nine months in South Sudan. The soldiers were welcomed upon arrival by Lt Gen Charles Kayonga, the RDF Chief of Defense Staff, flanked by other senior RDF officers.

Lt Gen Kayonga hailed the troops for their dedicated service for consolidating peace in South Sudan. He said that both UN and South Sudan Government expressed gratitude of what RDF is doing in UNMISS adding that Rwandans are proud of this. "Our government and the people of Rwanda thank you for the commitment you have shown" Kayonga said.

Through the United Nations (UN) and African Uniion (AU) Rwanda sends peacekeeping forces (both Police and Armed forces) to various parts of war torn areas of Africa and the World- especially in Sudan and Haiti. The performance of the Rwandan forces has been hailed by the two organizations for exhibiting high levels of discipline and commitment to duty.

The Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations for Peace building Support, Judy Cheng-Hopkins, recently visited Rwanda, and commended Rwanda defense forces for their role in promoting peace in the world.

"I am here to personally witness how the Rwandan forces have managed to achieve these goals, while in other places it seems like there has been a failure; and in this case discuss and find ways to work together" Hopkins said.

Similarly, in January, 2013, the United Nations awarded 24 Rwandan police officers with medals for their exemplary and professionalism in executing their peacekeeping duties in South Sudan.

The service in peacekeeping forces has also been marked by a heart and love for their country. In 2012, Rwandan Peacekeepers in Darfur (UNAMID) raised USD120, 000 (estimated Rwf75 millions) towards for the Agaciro Development Fund (AgDF)-a solidarity fund aimed at creating self-reliance for the Rwandan people.

Despite the shortages in capacity and funding, President Paul Kagame has also made a commitment that Rwandan forces will be able to intervene on the African continent as a way of restroring peace in Africa. While addressing the first press conference in 2013, kagame's reaction on the issue of Rwandans position on participating in peace building in conflict torn countries of Africa, Kagame said that the objective has always been that Africans come up with a single neutral force to intervene in such situations; however this objective has been retarded by lack of capacity.

In particular he said that Rwanda has taken part in peacekeeping missions and was more than willing to support, but for now the country is under limited capacity to send forces anywhere.

During Kagame's meeting in 2012, with a visiting team of United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) led by Professor Ibrahim Gambari, the Joint Special Representative of the African Union - UN Peace keeping mission, Kagame reflected on how the African Continent can have a voice on the international arena and play a part in resolving issues that concern it especially in the area of peace and security as well as Human Rights.

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