The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda Set to Deploy Peacekeepers to CAR

Rwanda Defence Forces is making final touches to deploy a peacekeeping force to the war-torn Central African Republic.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Louise Mushikiwabo, yesterday said although the troops will initially serve under the auspices of the African Union, the mandate may later change to a UN Mission.

"RDF is in pre-deployment preparations ... date not fixed yet, but we are aiming for before end year," said the minister.

By press time, RDF was yet to disclose the number of soldiers to be dispatched.

The AU force in CAR is estimated to be 6,000 strong and would be deployed alongside 1,600 French troops.

Burundi has already started deploying its peacekeepers in CAR.

Violence

Violence erupted in CAR in December last year when Séléka rebel coalition launched a series of attacks on the country's capital.

On January 11, former President Francois Bozizé and representatives of the Séléka rebels signed an agreement in Libreville, Gabon, after three days of negotiations brokered by regional neighbours.

However, the deal fell through, and Michel Djotodia, the rebel leader, captured Bangui and proclaimed himself president after seizing power from Bozizé on March 24, forcing the latter to flee into exile.

Djotodia promised swift changes and to restore order amid allegations of looting in the capital.

But the situation has moved from bad to worse in recent weeks, with fears of a possible genocide

Rwanda's involvement in Peace Support Operations is largely motivated by the need to take its responsibility as an active member of the international community, according to the Ministry of Defence.

Rwanda has in recent years participated in different initiatives designed to bring about peaceful settlement of disputes and resolution of conflicts.

Currently, Rwanda is ranked sixth major contributor to the UN peacekeeping mission, with more than 4,000 troops, 400 Police officers, and 13 military observers in seven UN missions.

Rwanda in missions

The missions include the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur, UN Mission in South Sudan (Unamid), UN Stabilisation Mission in Haiti, the UN Mission in Liberia, UN Interim Security Force in Abyei, UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire, and UN Integrated Peace-building Office in Guinea-Bissau.

Rwanda's main stake in peacekeeping lies with Unamid, with about 3,200 troops, 225 police, and seven military observers.

Minister Mushikiwabo said Rwanda's deployment of a peacekeeping military continent in CAR follows a request by AU.

In June last year, the Danish government signed a memorandum of understanding with RDF to construct a base to train and facilitate Rwandan troops deployed in peacekeeping missions.

The deal was inked within the framework of the Eastern Africa Standby Force whose objective is to provide standby forces to carry out timely peacekeeping missions in Africa and around the world.

Under the deal, Denmark contributing about $27 million toward the construction of a modern infrastructure for peacekeeping troops, where training facilities will be provided.

The base, to be located at the Rwanda Military Academy in Gako, Eastern Province, is expected to be operational next year. It will be fully equipped with supplies to enable troops carry out rapid response missions in the region and beyond.

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