Rwanda: Peacekeeping


March 14, 2011: Burundi currently has 3,500 soldiers deployed with the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia (AMISOM). This is an extraordinarily large force for a nation as small as Burundi. However, the peacekeepers get paid. For Burundi the upside is obvious: troops gaining military experience and getting paid for it. The downside is also obvious. Burundi, like Uganda (which has 4,500 soldiers in Somalia), is a target of the Somali radical Islamist organization, Al Shabaab. There have been several hundred Burundian casualties in Somalia so far.

March 10, 2011:  Another 1,200 Burundian peacekeepers have arrived in Somalia.

March 7, 2011: Four leaders of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) will face trial in Germany in May. The militia commanders are charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity. These crimes were committed in the Congo. The FDLR is a militia that has roots in the Rwandan Hutu Interahamwe radical group that was involved in the 1994 genocide.

February 27, 2011: The Rwandan Army (RDF, Rwandan Defense Force) announced that it plans to have a mobile field hospital ready for deployment by 2011. The field hospital would support peacekeeping operations.

February 24, 2011: China and Rwanda are discussing improving relations. One area of closer cooperation under consideration is military-to-military cooperation. Both China and Rwanda have troops in peacekeeping operations in Sudan. China has an enormous economic interest in retaining access to Africa’s natural resources. The Rwandan Army is regarded as a decent force, especially for a sub-Saharan African nation that isn’t named Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Africa, or Angola. The Minister of Defense, James Kabarebe, and the new Chinese envoy, Shu Zhan, yesterday explored ways of enhancing military cooperation between the two countries' armed forces. The Rwandan government recently acknowledge that China trains 30 Rwandan soldiers every year in China.

February 16, 2011: The chief of staff of the British Army visited Rwanda to discuss increasing defense cooperation with Rwanda. Great Britain currently provides the Rwandan military with training support and logistical support.

February 14, 2011: The Burundian government reported that some fifty gunmen assaulted a police headquarters ten kilometers south of  the capital, and the fighting lasted several hours. One attacker was killed and his body was recovered and found to be wearing a military-style uniform. This suggests a guerrilla attack. However, the government attributed the attack to armed bandits. Maybe, maybe not. For months Burundi has been rife with rumors of a National Liberation Forces (FNL) revival. The FNL is a Hutu liberation group. Several FNL factions have joined the peace process, but the rumor mill says hard core FNL factions have returned to the bush. The government report said that a house that was burned in the attack was owned by a senior FNL leader. That would support the bandit theory. It would also support a scenario where FNL radicals wanted to show their displeasure with other FNL factions. It also suggests –if you want to consider a conspiracy theory—a scenario where the government wants to incite infighting within the FNL. Far out? Not in Burundi. It’s happened before.

February 10, 2011: Two Rwandan journalists have been sentenced to prison for what the government calls stirring ethnic tensions. Rwandan is split between ethnic Hutus and ethnic Tutsis. The division has had terrible consequences—the worst example being the Tutsi genocide of 1994. The journalists’ jail terms, however, appear to be ridiculous. One journalist has been sentenced to 17 years in jail. The journalists wrote that a lot of people are not pleased with the government of President Paul Kagame. That’s true. Human rights advocates are now accusing Kagame of using the ethnic tension allegation as a way to silence his critics. That’s true, too.


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