Nearly 300 Rwandan soldiers have left for a peacekeeping mission in Darfur, Sudan, replacing a similar number who recently returned from a year long tour of duty as Rwanda rotates its troops in the country.
The rotation began on Sunday when 267 Rwandan soldiers departed for a nine month long tour of duty in the Western Darfur region of Sudan, according to The New Times. They are replacing a similar number of soldiers who recently arrived back from the northern African nation.
“You are representing a reputable nation that has been hailed by the international community for its efforts in promoting peace in Darfur,” said Lieutenant General Fred Ibingira the Chief of Staff/Reserve Force as he saw off the troops at Kigali International Airport on Sunday. “You need to ensure that you maintain this reputation and serve your mission effectively,” he said.
According to the Army and Defence Ministry spokesperson, Lieutenant Colonel Jill Rutaremara, 267 soldiers from the 69th battalion were the first to be airlifted to Zalingei in Darfur. “The troops replace those in the 45th battalion,” said Rutaremara.
Colonel Jean Bosco Rutikanga also left Rwanda for Darfur as the new Rwandan contingent Commander. He will replace Colonel Emmanuel Karemera.
Rwanda has four battalions deployed under the United Nations/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) comprising of over 3 200 soldiers. Rwandan Defence Forces (RDF) troops have been deployed to Darfur since 2004.
Nearly forty nations have contributed military personnel and police to the mission, according to the United Nations. As of April 30, there are a total of 23 000 uniformed personnel taking part in UNAMID, including 17 200 troops, 225 military observers and 5 200 police officers.
The operation has been relatively dangerous, as 56 troops and 19 police officers have been killed in Darfur, according to the United Nations.