By James Karuhanga
Lt Gen Daniel Sidiki Traoré, Force Commander of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), on Thursday, December 31, told reporters in Bangui that he too is proud of Rwandan units.
Forces from Rwanda, one of the largest troop contributors – both military and police – to MINUSCA are widely commended for doing an outstanding job in helping the country find its footing after decades of upheaval.
“They (Rwanda peacekeepers) are performing well. I can even say, almost outstanding,” Traoré said at a news conference.
Rwandan peacekeepers protect high-ranking government officials starting from the incumbent President Faustin Archange Touadéra, who is most likely to win a second term as President after the December 27 polls, and key state installations.
Traoré noted that he has never heard of any security issue pertaining to the security of the CAR Head of State, thanks to the Rwandans.
“I feel that they are performing very well and they are necessary in the system and the process of the securitisation of this country,” he said.
“And we really count on them and know that for the experience they have, they can continue to contribute very well to the lasting peace in this country and securisation of state authorities and the system of this country.”
Everything Rwandan troops do is set in their UN mandate. But the RDF added value from their pre-deployment training, especially after drawing lessons from previous missions as well as Rwanda’s liberation war history.
The latter has especially ensured that the troops step up wherever they are deployed for peacekeeping.
They shunned traditional peacekeeping and opted for robust peacekeeping. They think out of the box to better protect populations where they are deployed, as is clearly seen in the CAR capital.
In Bangui, for example, RDF troops are the only ones The New Times has seen on foot patrols during the day, and at night. They do this to build confidence in locals so they can go on with their daily lives, unperturbed.
The foot patrols are supported by mounted vehicles and armoured personnel carriers.
President Touadéra has also, on many occasions, made his appreciation of the Rwandan peacekeepers, very clear.
Rwanda recently bolstered its troop numbers when it deployed force protection troops to the Central African Republic (CAR), under an existing bilateral agreement on defense in the country.
Rwandan peacekeepers are deployed in various parts of the country. In Bangui, which hosts nearly half of the country’s 4.7 million population, they have left a mark, being the ones, by and large, in charge of protecting the city and its inhabitants.
At PK15, an RDF defence outpost located at a bridge 15 kilometers on the city outskirts, on the road northwards, Maj Gakwavu Safari, Commander of the quick reaction force had troops set to thwart any rebel threat from that direction.
Rwandan forces have set up similar outposts all around the city as part of a new security measure set up before the recent election to thwart potential rebel advances. Carmfloudged and armed to the teeth troops have taken positions all over nearby hills.
“We are celebrating new years by keeping the peace; protecting lives. The enemy of peace is still active in this country. And there is no better New Year gift to these people than security. We will do our best,” Gakwavu said.
Eight kilometers ahead, at PK23, The New Times found another outpost. This time, however, some CAR security forces manned a roadblock along with an RDF force. This outpost has an early warning unit that can fight to repel an enemy advance and pull back if necessary.
There, Adjoint Chief Mbanou Dede, of the CAR army, told The New Times that: “The Rwandan friends have supported us a lot, day and night. We have no problem when we have them here.”
We persevere, get the job done
Just like the RDF, more than 400 officers of the Rwanda National Police (RNP) serving under MINUSCA are also playing a significant role – they protect VIPs including the Prime Minister.
One of the protection support units in Bangui is headed by Chief Superintendent of Police Valens Muhabwa who told The New Times that their special tasks including escorting prisoners,
escorting and supporting internally displaced persons, escorting to top UN officials in the country and provision of basic services.
Despite challenges such as the very long distance trips they travel upcountry – they often cover 700 to 800 kilometres in the huge country, he said, “we persevere and get the job done.”
“We do our best to overcome whatever challenges that crop up,” Muhabwa said.
Inside Camp Fidele, an RNP camp in Bangui,
Corporal Hyacinthe Muteteri, the only female driver there, was on guard duty on Thursday.
“There is nothing especially challenging for me. I am ready for anything here,” she said, explaining that she gives her best despite having left a five-year-old baby girl back home.
She added: “Every day, at 2pm when my round of duty ends I check home and talk to my child.”
A few kilometers from Muteteri’s camp, Denise Marie-Claire Monzinga, 25, a local, was waiting for her turn to fill a dirty jerrican at a borehole in her shanty neighbourhood. So were a dozen other people, the majority being noisy youngsters.
The water point is one of the quick impact projects implemented by Rwandan police officers.
“We used to suffer very much as many people couldn’t easily access clean water here. But we now have it and we thank the Rwandans for it,” Monzinga said.
Minutes past midnight, on January 1, 2021, downtown Bangui was a scene of chaotic merrymaking.
Scenes of hundreds of youths blowing vuvuzelas mingled with churchgoers on the streets to form very long and noisy queues. The New Times again saw RDF foot and mounted vehicle patrols weaving through poorly lit and crowded streets of the capital.
Credit to The New Times.