Rwandan troops transcend ‘blocs’ to defend Africa

GATETE NYIRINGABO RUHUMULIZA

Remarks by officials and media in the Southern African region have been misleading and counterproductive in the wake of Rwandan troops deployment to Cabo Delgado.

Interestingly, that explains why the people of Cabo Delgado have received scant assistance in years of which they have been beleaguered by terrorists and Islamists groups.

Their dismal conditions seem of secondary concern, the priority being who should be the boss of the intervention force; some countries saying they do not trust Mozambican commanders, others insisting South-Africa should command since it has the bigger army, deputised by Botswana; others again saying South Africa and Mozambique should first resolve the issue of South African intelligence officers, who were arrested in Mozambique, or that the Mozambican former minister of finance, exiled in South Africa should be extradited first, while SADC paperwork for deployment, seems yet to be up to scratch.

The media on the other hand, doesn’t miss a chance to proclaim that Cabo Delgado is strategic in its massive reserves of natural gas and deep sea rubies and pearls.

Amid the jettisoning, innocent citizens of Cabo Delgado continue die, be abducted, face displacement and hunger.

This explains exactly why the Rwandan army deployed first. When the genocide against the Tutsi was being carried out in Rwanda, at the United Nations in New York experts and diplomats were debating semantics on how to name precisely what was taking place in Rwanda, politicians advising caution in calling it a genocide, for that would imply imperative action by the international community. One million innocent people were slaughtered while those sterile debates went on. And on.

By deploying to Mozambique therefore, Rwanda is merely enforcing the international norm of “Responsibility to Protect”: Known as R2P – is an international norm that seeks to ensure that the international community never again fails to halt the mass atrocity crimes of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

Let us be reminded that the concept emerged in response to the failure of the international community to adequately respond to mass atrocities committed in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s.

Rwanda is at peace now, but we believe that our peace is not complete if the peace of fellow humans, fellow Africans is not secure.

It is in that context that Rwanda invited the world in its capital city, Kigali, to sign the “Kigali Principles on the Protection of Civilians”, which are a non-binding set of eighteen (18) pledges for the effective and thorough implementation of the protection of civilians in UN peacekeeping.

It is not the first time that Rwandan troops deploy outside of its East African region. Rwanda is currently the fourth largest contributor of troops to UN peacekeeping operations and the second largest police contributing country.

Before the deployment in Mozambique, there were nearly 6,550 Rwandan uniformed personnel serving with the UN, the majority of them in hotspots such as South Sudan, the Darfur region of Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR).

Over the last 15 years, more than 7,700 Rwanda Police officers have participated in peacekeeping duties across the globe, of which over 1400 are women. Rwanda National Police participated in restoring peace and security in Ivory Coast, Mali, Liberia, South Sudan, Haiti and Police Professional staff in the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

Rwandan troops did not ‘get ahead’ of SADC to deploy in Mozambique. That is one of the emerging fallacies in this protracted conflict.

That an army from a different African region is asked to enter a warzone, to rescue innocent civilians, four years after the conflict has been ongoing, is an indictment to the relevant regional body on its true willingness to intervene in that conflict.

But that is not the relevant issue. The true question is: What are Rwandan troops going to do? To rescue civilians! If they are successful, those women, children, the elderly who are in danger, won’t mind who came first, who came second or who commands the troops. During the genocide against the Tutsi in our country, we could have accepted anyone who would have bothered to come to our rescue…

It is important not to lose focus. In a humanitarian situation, the people in danger must be at the center of every political decision and should determine the urgency with which such decision must be taken. Who deployed first or last, who commands and who deputises the troops, are subsidiary technicalities. What matters is to get on with the job of saving innocent lives.

Having said that, although it isn’t told, Rwandans are no aliens, they are Africans. It is in the order of things for them to be concerned by the suffering of fellow Africans. I imagine that those who fought the liberation of Mozambique still remember Rwandan young men who used to come to learn guerrilla warfare in their country in the late seventies – early eighties.

Those young men, now retired Rwandan commanders, still share with the young soldiers their fond memories of Mozambique and of late Samora Machel. Let’s recall that the FRELIMO was founded in Tanzania, and young Rwandans too, grew up on Miriam Makeba’s revolutionary song: “Mozambique A luta Continua”. It would be improper then of the home of African revolutionaries to be besieged by terrorism as other African armies look by.

Rwandan troops’ swift deployment is indeed in line with the founding fathers’ dream of having a Pan-African force to defend our continent, without being hindered by colonial borders or regional ‘blocks’.

Instead of speculating, all good-willing nations should support Rwandan troops deployed in Cabo Delgado, after all, there is nothing new about a brother coming to the assistance of another brother.

However, for an operation to be successful all troops have to have clarity on the mission. In this operation all intervening armies have a common enemy: the terrorists. They have a common mission: to rescue civilians and restore peace and security to Cabo Delgado. Let they not be mistaken about who is on which side, and who is not.–The New Times

Gatete Nyiringabo Ruhumuliza is a former researcher at the Faculty of Human Rights of Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, Maputo, Mozambique.

 

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