Darfur peacekeepers jet out

A batch of one hundred Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) peacekeepers were yesterday morning airlifted to the conflict-torn Darfur region of Southern Sudan, raising the number of Rwandan peacekeepers there to  2,556.

A batch of one hundred Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) peacekeepers were yesterday morning airlifted to the conflict-torn Darfur region of Southern Sudan, raising the number of Rwandan peacekeepers there to  2,556.

The troops left Kigali International Airport in a buoyant mood aboard Boeing 737-800 Miami Air International jet Reg. No N739MA which transported their colleagues in similar flights before.

Flanked by several RDF senior officers, the Chief of General Staff Gen. James Kabarebe blessed the send-off ceremony.

Military Spokesman Maj. Jill Rutaremara said that the new rotation was the beginning of replacement of two Rwandan battalions in Darfur, which are serving under the outgoing African Mission in Sudan (AMIS).

“The contingent that has just been airlifted is part of the 35 battalion that is replacing 61 battalion which is going to be also airlifted back home this evening,” Rutaremara said yesterday morning.

The two battalions that will be airlifted to Darfur are battalions 35 and 25 which will be replacing battalions 61 and 14.

Rutaremara said that each of the new battalions is composed of 538 troops with a mandate of six months.

The first contingent was headed by Lt. Col. Alex Kayumba.

Asked where the troops are going to be deployed, Rutaremara said: “they will be joining their fellow peacekeepers for the meantime because the Sectors are going to be merged soon,” Rutaremara added.

Rwandan troops are currently deployed in Sectors one, four and seven.

Rutaremara said that each sector is headed by a colonel under the auspices of African Union. “After emerging the Sectors, each will be headed by a Brigadier and the Sectors will now be operating under the banner of AU-UN hybrid force,” Rutaremara said.

He also said that Rwanda’s troops in Darfur have increased to 2,556 and that the newly deployed force would be upgraded to the joint AU-UN hybrid force by January next year.

The airlifting came a day after President Paul Kagame cited improvement in the troubled Darfur region and called for facilitation of the upcoming hybrid force.

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