REGIONAL - The military Chief of General Staff Gen. James Kabarebe has applauded the performance of Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) peacekeeping operations in Sudan’s conflict-torn Darfur region.
He expressed his optimism while addressing RDF’s Battalion One peacekeepers at Kanombe Military Barracks. The peacekeepers returned home from Darfur over the weekend.
“We have many peacekeepers in Darfur; we, the commanders, evaluate the performance of our troops on a continual basis and so far Battalion One is still the best. However other three battalions are also performing well,” Kabarebe said.
He said that the UN and African Union have also assessed the performance of RDF peacekeepers and he is impressed by the results.
He said: “At the beginning of this operation, forces that went to Darfur were very superb despite being few; they impressed the world and that is why we decided to send more troops there. From a few soldiers, we now have four battalions in Darfur.”
However, Gen. Kabarebe told RDF that peacekeeping is not a priority for Rwanda. “Our primary obligation is to ensure security at home; we participate in these peacekeeping operations because there is peace at home,” he said.
He remarked that the RDF has achieved global prominence in a very short time because of discipline, commitment and excellent leadership.
He told soldiers that they should be on the alert as it were before they went on the foreign mission.
“Anytime we can call you for another assignment since you have gained more experience,” he said.
After meeting with the peacekeepers, Kabarebe gave them a two-week leave. Currently RDF peacekeepers in Darfur are estimated at 2000 under the auspices of AU but the number is likely to increase to 3000 after Rwanda fully deploys in the upcoming UN-AU hybrid force due to start operation by January 2008.
Meanwhile the BBC reports that pessimism has grown over Darfur talks. The talks in Libya aimed at trying to end the four-year war in Sudan’s Darfur region entered a second day yesterday.
The talks began on Saturday with the Sudanese government announcing a unilateral ceasefire.
But with key rebel leaders boycotting the talks, pessimism is growing that they will have any lasting impact.
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi who is hosting the talks said there were limits to what international intervention could achieve in Darfur.
At the gathering in the Libyan city of Sirte, Sudanese presidential adviser Nafie Ali Nafie said: “We announce a ceasefire from this moment, and we will respect it unilaterally.”
However, several ceasefires have previously been agreed and none has ended the violence.
Some 200,000 people have died and two million have been displaced in the conflict.
Both the SLA-Unity and the Justice and Equality Movement (Jem) groups decided not to attend after the UN and the AU - who are mediating the talks - invited other rebel groups they claim have little support, said Mohammed Bahr Hamdeen, a senior Jem leader.
Gaddafi said without the two groups’ leaders present in Sirte, “we cannot achieve peace”.
He also cast doubt on what the international community could achieve in Darfur. “To internationalise a tribal problem is an exercise in futility.”
Fighting in Darfur began in 2003 when rebels attacked government targets.
Sudan’s government then launched a military and police campaign in Darfur.
A 2006 peace deal faltered because it was signed by the Sudanese government and only one rebel group. The rebel movement then splintered into at least 12 groups and sub-factions.