REGIONAL - Rwandan troops serving in the African peacekeeping force in the troubled Sudanese region of Darfur are not among those attacked by a breakaway rebel faction yesterday, military spokesman Maj. Jill Rutaremara has said.
An attack on an African Union army base in Darfur has killed at least 10 peacekeepers. Reports said that thirty vehicles overran the base, and 50 AU soldiers were missing and seven seriously injured. Vehicles and property were looted or vandalised.
Rutaremara said the attacked based was in el-daein which is controlled by Nigerian peacekeepers forming sector eight of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS).
He said that Rwanda’s troops in Darfur control three sectors, first, fourth and seventh which are stationed in El-Fasher (force headquarters), Kabkabya and Zalingei, respectively.
“Each troop contributing country has a sector it mans, and the sector that was targeted yesterday was controlled by Nigerians,” he said. He said he had talked to officials in Khartoum, who confirmed that there was Rwandan peacekeeper among the victims.
Rutaremara also said that the outgoing force deputy commander Brig. Gen. Ephraim Rurangwa, who is on ground in Darfur, had confirmed that no Rwandan peacekeeper was killed or injured in the attack.
Rurangwa is in Darfur to prepare for a handover to Maj. Gen. Karenzi Karake, who recently took up the position of Deputy Commander for the yet-to-be-deployed Hybrid AU-UN 26,000 peacekeeping force.
However, Rutaremara said that it was not yet clear whether there were some Rwandan military observers that could have been in sector eight by the time of the attack.
“Unlike the peacekeepers, military observers are spread across Darfur. They are mixed with others from other countries are not limited to a specific sector,” he said.
Apart from Sector eight, Nigerians also form sectors two and three, which control the areas of Nyara and El-Geneina, respectively. South Africa and Senegal control one sector each – sixth (in Kutum) and fifth in Tine respectively.
Rebel sources told the BBC that the raiders were members of breakaway factions from two rebel groups.
The casualties were the most serious suffered by the AU mission since it arrived in 2003, an AU statement said.
AU-UN Joint Special Representative Rodolphe Adada said he was profoundly shocked and appalled by the “outrageous and deliberate” attack, which happened on Saturday evening at a base in Haskanita town.
A spokesman for the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) condemned the attack, saying it was carried out by three dissident commanders from his own movement, in conjunction with one of the groups that broke from the Sudan Liberation Army.
“It’s a group which has been expelled,” Ibrahim Jalil said.
“They’re looking for equipment - vehicles and weapons. They couldn’t get these within JEM, and they don’t have the capability to fight government forces. They found the AU an easy target.” Rwanda maintains close to 2,000 troops in the AU force.