The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: African Union Salutes Rwanda Peacekeepers in CAR

The African Union has paid glowing tribute to the Rwandan peacekeepers serving under an AU mission in the troubled Central African Republic for their "professionalism, courage and selflessness".

The message is contained in a congratulatory note released on the International Labour Day on Friday in which the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission and Chief of African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA), Gen. (rtd) Jean Marie Michel Mokoko, commended Rwanda Defence Forces for a job well done.

"On this International Labour Day, May 1, 2014, I extend my warmest congratulations to the Rwandan contingent of MISCA Forces for the work done to date and the results obtained since December 19, 2013," Mokoko is quoted in a statement as saying.

He added: "I take this opportunity to reiterate to the Rwandan contingent in MISCA my encouragement and my gratitude for the sacrifices made on a daily basis.

"I would like on this occasion also to salute your commitment, professionalism and your courage and selflessness in the accomplishment of our mission."

Rwanda maintains up to 800 troops in CAR as part of international efforts to restore sanity in a country that has endured more than a year of violence that has since degenerated into a brutal religious-based conflict, with a vicious Christian militia known as Antibalaka blamed for the latest wave of attacks against the country's Muslim communities.

Rwanda's Mechanised Infantry Battalion, also known as RwaMechBatt1, is charged with protecting high-profile government officials, key government buildings and installations, protecting civilians and helping to restore State authority.

The Rwandan peacekeepers have also played a major role in efforts to create conditions conducive to the provision of humanitarian assistance in the capital Bangui, and famously opened a 700km humanitarian corridor on January 27 2014 that allowed delivery of crucial supplies from neighbouring Cameroon's sea port of Doula.

The route had been cut off by armed bands that often carried out bloody attacks against Muslims as the latter either hid or attempted to flee the country.

In one incident, Rwandan peacekeepers who were escorting a humanitarian convoy along the militia infested route were forced to engage the attackers, saved thousands of Muslims and delivered them to safety at the Cameroon border where they provided them with food and medical supplies.

The Rwandan peacekeepers have also introduced Umuganda (community work) in Bangui, as a homegrown solution to some of the socio-economic challenges the country faces.

Umuganda, conducted at least once every month in Rwanda and is credited with significantly contributing to the country's recovery following a devastating genocide two decades ago, has also been introduced to several places around the world where Rwandan peacekeepers are serving.

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