KICUKIRO - A contingent of 155 soldiers of the 35th battalion of the Rwanda Defense Forces (RDF) returned home yesterday, after serving a year in the joint United Nations (UN) and African Union (AU) mission in the troubled Sudanese region of Darfur. This is part of the rotation exercise that started last month.
Receiving the troops at Kigali International Airport, senior army officials praised them for their role of bringing back hope and security to people living in North-western Darfur where, their leaders said, they had been instrumental in reducing violence, such as burning of people’s houses and the rape of women.
“Your contribution was commended by both Rwandans and the Sudanese. You did what you were supposed to do,” the chief of the RDF’s J4-army, Maj. Gen. Patrick Nyamvumba said as he welcomed them. He implored the soldiers to be vigilant in their work, now that they were back home.
According to Maj Alphonse Safari, the Deputy-Commander of the 35th battalion, North-western Darfur residents were facing attacks in which their houses would be set alight, their belongings looted, and women raped. He said that the residents applauded the Rwandans at their departure.
“The violence decreased in the region if we consider the situation before our arrival and by the time we left,” Major Safari said.
RDF spokesperson Major Jill Rutaremara said that currently there are 2556 Rwandan peacekeepers serving in Sudan under the UN-AU Hybrid mission. He said that troops who are grouped in four battalions are rotated after serving for a year.
Those who arrived yesterday were immediately replaced by others who were also flown to Sudan yesterday morning.
A 26,000-strong hybrid AU-UN force was required in Sudan’s western Darfur region to quell the violence in which so far an estimated 200,000 people have been killed while 2.5 million others have been displaced.
Rutaremara said that after the rotation exercise, Rwanda would have had contingent of 3200 troops deployed in Darfur in an effort to conform to the UN standards which requires a battalion to have 800 solders.