KIGALI - Rwanda has no plans to deploy troops in Somalia, contrary to recent reports in sections of the media, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence and Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) has said.
Col. Joseph Nzabamwita told The New Times, last evening, that Kigali fully backs the current African Union-led peace efforts in the Horn of African nation, but was ‘currently pre-occupied with other commitments elsewhere.’
“At the moment, we maintain up to 3,200 peacekeepers in Darfur, and are planning to deploy more officers and men in South Sudan before the end of the year,” Col. Nzabamwita said by telephone.
He disclosed that Rwanda was preparing to the send 850 troops to South Sudan, under the auspices of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, as part of the continued international community’s support to the world’s youngest nation.
Some reports had earlier suggested that President Paul Kagame had pledged Rwanda’s direct military intervention in the lawless country, during meetings with regional counterparts, on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm), which ended in Australia on Sunday.
But the military and defence spokesperson stated that Rwanda was involved in building the capacity of Somali armed forces, saying it had already trained 98 Non-Commissioned Officers from Somalia to help build the country’s capacity to address its security challenges. “When they come here, we take full charge of all the costs.”
“We are ready to continue making our contribution in that regard (capacity building), but have also made it clear that we are unable to get involved through military deployment due to our commitments in the Sudans,” said Col. Nzabamwita. “
He added that the country will continue to pursue regional peace efforts, citing the just-concluded East African Community (EAC) Command Post Exercise in Musanze, Northern Province, which focused particularly on counter-terrorism and piracy. EAC is a regional economic bloc consisting of Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
The situation in Somalia took a new dimension recently when the Al Shabaab insurgents, fighting to topple the UN-backed Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu, kidnapped civilians on the Kenyan territory, directly threatening tourism and trade in the wider region.
Nairobi responded by deploying troops across the Somali border.
Al Shabaab, an extremist group linked to the Al Qaida terrorist network, wants Somalia ruled under a strict version of Sharia Law, and has vowed to carry on with their fight against the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeepers, despite losing territory in recent battles.
Rwanda has voiced support of Kenya’s right to secure her borders.