by Paul NTAMBARA
As you read this, the Rwanda Defence Forces’ (RDF) Mechanized Infantry battalion of 850 Personnel has deployed to the Central African Republic () as part of an African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA).
The mission is mandated to protect civilians, restore security and public order. It is mandated to stabilise the country and restore state authority, support reform and restructure defence and security. It is also tasked to create conducive conditions to the provision of humanitarian assistance to the population in need.
The Central African Republic finds itself in dire straits following ethnic and political violence that has also taken a religious dimension. Media reports indicate that Muslims are being ‘butchered like sheep’ by Christian militants. The UN has warned of ‘seeds of a genocide’ being sown in the now volatile country.
The Country was thrown into chaos following the ouster of President Francois Bozize in March, last year, by the Séléka Muslim rebel coalition led by Michel Djotodia.
From then on, it has been free roll into anarchy. The rebel leader could not hold the Country together; He could not put to an end the inter-religious violence. Amid growing international pressure, Djotodia and his Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye resigned their positions. Alexandre-Ferdinand Nguendet, the head of the National Transitional Council (CNT) is now the man at the helm as the world holds its breath.
I will not delve much into the country’s internal politics but rather focus on efforts to bring peace back to the troubled Country.
The deployment of the RDF in CAR comes at a time when Rwanda is marking the twentieth anniversary of the 1994 Genocide that claimed over one million Tutsi. No Country understands the consequences of indecisiveness by the international community, especially when human lives are on the line, more than Rwanda. This is what makes Rwanda’s Peace Support missions in countries like CAR seem like a ‘natural’ reaction. It is also in observance of the ‘Responsibility to Protect Principle and the ‘Never Again’ vow.
UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, speaking at an event in New York to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Genocide against Tutsi noted:
” When people are killed or violated in the name of religion, race or ethnicity, everybody’s humanity is diminished. We are all brutalised – victims and perpetrators as well as bystanders.”
The niggling question is what you do when you are ‘brutalised’, when your own humanity is diminished? History shows that the international community, under the umbrella of the UN, chose to be bystanders, only to ‘plead guilty’ after the victims had already gone through the throes of gruesome death.
I interpret the readiness of Rwanda to put its troops in harm’s way in Countries like Sudan, Haiti, South Sudan, Liberia, Guinea-Bissau and Ivory Coast as a resolve not to be bystanders like the rest of the world was when the 1994 Genocide was unravelling in our own backyard. It is a fulfilment of the ‘Never Again’ vow.
The Rwandan troops have exhibited exemplary professionalism and discipline wherever they have been deployed.
Andre Roux, of the Institute for Security Studies, says of the RDF:
“The Rwanda army is in the top 20 per cent in Africa in terms of troop quality – young, very fit, good weapons skills and good command and control.”
There is no doubt that the country’s recent history is a motivating factor. Rwanda knows well the price of dithering; it cannot afford to make the same mistakes made by the international community twenty years ago.
It is the 6th biggest troop contributor in UN peacekeeping operations. The deployed troops have done more than ordinary troops on a peace support mission would do. They have introduced Rwanda’s homegrown solutions like community work, or Umuganda and built schools, roads and health centres. They have built peace and improved lives.
It is also prudent to recognise peace support efforts by other countries and organisations that have provided equipment and funded these missions. It is through this synergy that the world will uphold the principle of ‘Never Again’, for, in the words of Eliasson, “repeating ‘never again’ after atrocity is ‘a sign of continued failure’.
Did you know about…?
Séléka (also called the Séléka CPSK-CPJP-UFDR) is an alliance of militias in the Central African Republic that overthrew the government on March 24, 2013. Séléka leader Michel Djotodia has claimed himself President of the Central African Republic. Nearly all the members of Séléka are Muslim.
The rebel coalition originated in an agreement signed between factions of the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace(CPJP) and the Patriotic Convention for Saving the Country (CPSK), two of the CAR’s many anti-government militias.CPJP in this case refers to the “Fundamental” splinter group of the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace, one of many militias involved in the CAR’s long-running civil war. A different faction of the CPJP signed a peace accord with the government on August 25.
The Séléka first emerged on 15 September 2012 under the name alliance CPSK-CPJP, when it published a press release taking responsibility for the attacks on three towns that day.It was the last of the major rebel groups to do so.ThePatriotic Convention for Saving the Country (CPSK) was previously hardly known.
On 15 December 2012 the group published its first press release using the full name “Séléka CPSK-CPJP-UFDR”. This including the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR). Two groups that do not appear in the title, the long-standing militia Democratic Front of the Central African People (FDPC), and the newly minted Alliance for Revival and Rebuilding(A2R), were reportedly part of the alliance.
In September 2013 Michel Djotodia announced that Seleka had been dissolved.The disbanded group has dispersed into the countryside and have been committing mass atrocities according to Human Rights Watch.
Executions, rape and looting by ex-Seleka fighters after the coup and disbanding have formented religious tension where the population is 80 per cent Christian. Christian militas, using the name anti-balaka, have been formed to fight the Muslim Seleka. The United Nations is considering sending troops to stop the atrocities. On November 26, France indicated that it would boost its presence an additional 1,000 soldiers in the Central African Republic to augment its existent 400 troops if it receives U.N. backing.