Rwanda Deploys Female-Dominated Police Contingent to South Sudan

Destruction is evident in Malakal, once South Sudan's second city but now largely deserted. More than 24,000 people now live in a UN protected camp on the outskirts of the town.

A Formed Police Unit contingent of 160 officers, majority women, left Kigali International Airport for a one-year peacekeeping duty under the UN mission in South Sudan.

At about 10:30am, on Wednesday, a Formed Police Unit (FPU) contingent of 160 officers, majority women, left Kigali International Airport for a one-year peacekeeping duty under the UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

The contingent, the first of its kind, was saluted off by the Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIGP) in charge of Administration and Personnel, Juvenal Marizamunda.

It is headed by a female Police officer Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Teddy Ruyenzi as its commander.

It is the first time that Rwanda has deployed a contingent that is led by a female officer.

During the pre-deployment briefing, the DIGP in charge of Operations, Dan Munyuza said that "protecting the people in need requires sacrifice and selflessness."

"Police follows the guidance by the President Paul Kagame. He has guided us to another level of knowledge of skills-based policing. We have to continue aiming higher both at home and abroad in such peacekeeping duties," he said.

Munyuza further told the officers that "Policing goes beyond individual service to teamwork," and urged them to be defined by discipline, commitment, respect for each other and superiors in particular.

He also encouraged them to work with the people of South Sudan in various human security activities like Umuganda.

"Be where you are supposed to be in the right time and ensure effective execution of orders; the people of South Sudan expect your protection. We want to see you back in good health and with honour," Munyuza said.

The deployed contingent was pledge by President Paul Kagame during the UN Leaders' Summit on Peacekeeping Operations in 2015.

In an interview, the contingent commander, ACP Ruyenzi, said: "We spent more than a year on training and preparing us on the mission mandate and demands, and we are now ready to take up the tasks."

"As an FPU composed of mainly women, we were also trained on how to support the vulnerable groups like women, girls and children; you know in conflicts these are the most affected groups. Ideally, women and girls are more open when speaking to fellow women," ACP Ruyenzi said.

"Beyond usual physical policing, we will also go an extra mile to be a practical voice in the fight against sexual and gender based violence that is most common in conflict zones."

Gender promotion

"Having a majority female contingent speaks a lot on gender equality in our country; it shows that our government believes in us that we can equally do better, we shouldn't feel inferior that because we are women. We are female police officers with Rwandan values, well trained, committed and able to serve as the mission mandate requires," she said.

"Our parents, families and the Rwandan community as a whole believe in us but also as women, we believe in ourselves that we can equally do what men can do; this commitment and dedication is derived from the good leadership that also believes in women."

The deployed FPU contingent brings the number of contingents in various missions to seven with a combined 1120 police officers.

Three of the contingents--two FPUs and a Protection Support Unit (PSU)--are deployed in Central African Republic; three in South Sudan and another in Haiti.

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