September 24, 2010 (KHARTOUM) – Rwanda has confirmed reversal of a decision to prepare its troops serving with the UN-AU Peacekeeping Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) for immediate withdrawal if the UN pushed ahead with a report accusing the Rwandan army of committing crimes during a mopping-up military campaign in DR Congo in 1990s.
Alain Le Roy, UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told reporters yesterday that Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who was in New York this week to attend the U.N. General Assembly’s annual gathering of world leaders, had confirmed that Rwandan troops would stay in Darfur.
Last month, Rwanda threatened to end its participation with the UN in Sudan after a leaked report by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights singled out the Rwandan Defence Force (RDF) for the worst pattern of crimes committed by various forces in Congo between 1994 and 2003.
Rwanda invaded Congo in 1994 to hunt down Hutu ethnic fighters who were involved in the genocide of some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda. The UN report alleges that the Rwandan army may have killed many Hutus civilians in the process.
News of the leaked report infuriated Rwanda whose military spokesman Lt. Col. Jill Rutaremara announced in early September that the country has finalized a contingency withdrawal plan from Darfur and Southern Sudan if the U.N. publishes its “outrageous and damaging report.”
The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon flew to Rwanda’s capital Kigali two weeks ago and negotiated a compromise allowing Rwanda to contribute comments to the report which is due to be released on October 01.
“After the visit of the Secretary-General in Kigali … two weeks ago, President Kagame reconfirmed, and again here, that his troops will remain in the Sudan, and especially in Darfur,” Le Roy said, adding that they are “extremely pleased by the decision.”
Rwanda has 3,556 personnel serving with UNAMID as well as the UN Mission in Sudan. A similar withdrawal threat was made by the Rwandan government in 2008 for its troops in Darfur over the indictment by a Spanish court of UNAMID deputy commander Karake Karenzi along with 39 other Rwandan officers last February for war crimes allegedly committed in the mid-1990s.
The Rwandan president Paul Kagame has expressed frustrations in recent years over conditions encountered by his troops in Darfur and suggesting that a pullout will be the only option left.