US and Rwanda strengthen defence ties


Rwanda and the United States have signed the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that will strengthen the existing military cooperation between the United States and Rwanda, the Rwandan government has announced.

The signing ceremony was held on 28 May at the Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, in Kimihurura.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr Vincent Biruta, who signed the agreement on behalf of Rwanda, noted that the new agreement is broader than the existing one.

“This SOFA that we are signing today will be broader than the 2005 agreement and will cover US Personnel and US contractors who may be temporarily present in the territory of the Republic of Rwanda in connection with ship visits, training exercises, humanitarian activities, and other activities as mutually agreed,” he said.

The signing ceremony was witnessed by Minister of Defence, Major General Albert Murasira, Ambassador Guillaume Kavaruganda, the Director-General in charge of Europe, Americas, and International Organisations and Major General Ferdinand Safari, Director-General in charge of Policy and Strategy at the Ministry of Defence. Rwanda and the United States have maintained positive defence cooperation for a number of years, the Rwandan government said.

Peter Vrooman, US Ambassador to the Republic of Rwanda said: “The signing of this agreement marks another milestone in strengthening the military cooperation between our two countries which has seen a significant rise, exemplified by the signature of the State Partnership Programme with the State of Nebraska and its National Guard on December 12th, 2019.”

“State partnerships are integral to strengthening alliances, providing mutually beneficial training opportunities and enhancing defense security in Africa,” US Air Force Brigadier General Steven deMilliano, US Africa Command deputy director for strategy, engagement & programmes said at the time.

“Rwanda is a strong partner with shared values for human rights equality, protection of civilians and commitment to peacekeeping operations,” deMilliano said. “As such this partnership will focus on engineering, logistics, medical readiness and aviation to enhance the Rwanda Defence Force’s capability to prepare, deploy and sustain peacekeeping forces.”

US relations with Rwanda have not always been rosy, with the United States in July 2012 saying it would cut military aid to Rwanda for the year because of evidence that it was supporting rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Rwanda sent its army into Congo, then called Zaire, in the mid-1990s, ostensibly to hunt down Rwandan Hutu rebels who fled there after the 1994 genocide, and has been involved in the country to a limited degree since.

Relations with the United States have improved lately, with the US hosting exercises there, including African Partnership Flight Rwanda in March 2019. Late last year it emerged that the US had issued a draft request for proposals (RFP) for the acquisition of medical evacuation (medevac) aircraft for Rwanda.

The Federal Business Opportunities website on 20 September 2019 posted the draft RFP for the purchase, delivery and provision of spare parts for two Cessna 208B Grand Caravan EX aircraft. In September 2018 the US Air Force first announced that Rwanda was to receive two new aircraft for medical evacuation and light transport, primarily during United Nations international peacekeeping operations in the Central African Republic, Sudan and South Sudan. The aircraft will be supplied under the US foreign military sales (FMS) programme.