RDF peacekeepers killed as worries grow over Darfur security

Five members of the Rwanda Defence Force serving under the hybrid AU/UN mission in Darfur (UNAMID) died Wednesday when a convoy they were escorting fell into an ambush in Shangiya Tobaya, 40km south of El-Fasher in the Sudanese troubled area of Darfur.
RDF heading to Darfur where five members were killed this week (File photo)
RDF heading to Darfur where five members were killed this week (File photo)

Five members of the Rwanda Defence Force serving under the hybrid AU/UN mission in Darfur (UNAMID) died Wednesday when a convoy they were escorting fell into an ambush in Shangiya Tobaya, 40km south of El-Fasher in the Sudanese troubled area of Darfur.

RDF spokesman Major Jules Rutaremara told The New Times that 17 others are reported to have been wounded in what is the worst attack against the RDF since they were deployed to the troubled region.

The peacekeepers were part of a protection force that was escorting UNAMID observers which fell into the ambush by heavily armed men with over 40 vehicles mounted with heavy calibre anti-aircraft weapons.

“Our peacekeepers are ill equipped in a situation where they come under attack from heavily armed people,” explained Maj. Rutaremara.

The spokesman was echoing existing concerns by many observers, including the UN, who have called on the international community for more and better equipment. Despite the tragedy, Rutaremara said that the RDF would continue with their mission.

“But our mission in Darfur will be marked with more vigilance and self defence,” he noted. The attack came amongst growing concern for the safety of peacekeepers in Darfur.

Next week prosecutors at the International Criminal Court are expected to present evidence against Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir. There are fears that an imminent indictment against President Bashir could endanger the lives of peacekeepers in Darfur.

The Rwandan soldiers were killed just days after UNAMID representative Henry Anyidoho observed the progress that had been by the mission.

Speaking at Liberation Day celebrations, Anyidoho said, “Where we are today is not where we started.”

The death of the five brings the number of fatalities in war-torn Darfur to 15 since the troops were deployed there in 2004.

FDLR official arrested

The week began with the news of the arrest of FDRL top official in Germany, Callixte Mbarushimana, a former core member of the extremist COALITION for the defense of the Republic (CDR) party.

Mbarushimana who is FDLR secretary general, was arrested at Frankfurt airport, from where he had wanted to fly to Saint Petersburg.

The 44-year-old is accused of killing and ordered the killing of some 30 Tutsis, including colleagues at the UN Development Programme, where he worked in Kigali in the early 1990s.

Meanwhile, former FDLR colleagues of Mbarushimana accused the UN Mission in Congo (Monuc) of selling back weapons to the rebels after they had been seized by the UN body during the disarmament process.

Speaking during the repatriation ceremony held at Mutobo Domobilisation Centre, the former rebels said they had witnessed MONUC selling arms.

“I was the middleman. I could go negotiate with MONUC officials immediately after the disarmament and I could report back to the officials. FDLR could either purchase the guns or exchange minerals with guns.”

Ups and downs

It’s been a good week for street children. Members of Saddleback Church have pledged to build a home for Kibuye street children and Ugandan singer Ziggy Dee has been raising awareness with a concert in Muhanga district.

Although Ziggy Dee has since been bitten by malaria and has had to postpone the remainder of the tour. It was not such a good week for farmers who are not only struggling with the dry season but it has also emerged that 15 million tonnes of soil has been lost due to erosion.

Minister of Agriculture Christophe Bazivamo said soil erosion affects the food supply of 40,000 Rwandans each year.

Ends

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