President Paul Kagame has spoken out on the decision by the Government of Rwanda to deploy more troops in the Central African Republic (CAR), following recent attacks that targeted Rwandan forces operating under the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).
The Head of State said that the deployment of more Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) troops in the conflict-ridden Central African country was a result of discussions with the government there to add more forces with a different mandate than the peacekeepers after rebels supported by the former President François Bozizé attacked RDF positions.
“We have forces serving under the UN peacekeeping effort in the Central African Republic but a number of things have been happening over time. The Central African Republic is now in the process of carrying out elections,” President Kagame said, pointing out that the December 27 election is a good development which will help put in place legitimate leaders.
“The fact that they can go to elections is a good thing. It is a big step,” President Kagame said, pointing however that there are many armed groups fighting each other and also fighting the government and, in the process, even RDF peacekeepers are targeted.
He said that recently there were attacks that came from somewhere outside Central African Republic, but by people of Central Africa, belonging to the said armed groups and particularly one group or many groups that are coming together under the leadership of former president of Central African Republic Bozizé.
“The aim, I was told, was to disrupt the elections but in so doing we also learned ourselves that some of them wanted to target our own forces in Central Africa because in the past, while we’ve been operating there our forces have been uncompromising where these groups have attacked civilians,” President Kagame said.
President Kagame said that in places where the rebels attacked civilians and displaced them from their homes, Rwanda forces acted strongly to ensure that civilians are protected.
In enforcing security, President Kagame said RDF Peacekeepers are effective in executing their UN mandate and because of that history, the armed groups not only do they want to disrupt elections but they also want to target Rwandan troops serving under the UN.
President Kagame also revealed that the protection forces deployed will have a mandate different from that of UN Peacekeepers, indicating that the deployment is a result of bilateral cooperation with the Central African Republic.
He said that even though forces under the UN are able to defend themselves against these attacks, it is not enough, hence the deployment of additional protection forces with a different mandate, based on the current circumstances.
““In this particular case, we have had bilateral, we have had bilateral cooperation with the Central African Republic, which I’m sure you are aware of because it was made public here and in CAR,”
“We thought under this bilateral arrangement, at the invitation of the Central African Republic government, the rules of engagement are going to be different and they will enable us to protect or to add additional capability to protect our forces that would be targeted or that are targeted by these armed groups,” President Kagame revealed.
He said that under the mandate, the additional forces will also be able to protect civilians by supporting Rwandan Police contingents deployed in CAR to secure camps of displaced people which also regularly come under attack from the armed groups.
“The additional force we sent there under a different arrangement is simply to make sure that we can contain any situation that either is aimed at disrupting the elections and also that if any group that target our forces will be dealt with by the protection force, without being constrained by the other rules of engagement,” President Kagame explained.
He said the protection force will be operating within a legitimate and legal framework. A statement signed by Sylvie Baïpo-Temon, the CAR Minister of Foreign Affairs, on December 2, confirmed the bilateral arrangement between the two countries.
Former President Bozizé who was deposed in 2013, has been accused by the current government of CAR of plotting a coup. He is accused of allying with a rebel alliance that is fighting President Faustin Archange Touadéra’s government.
The rejection of Bozizé’s candidacy for next week’s national elections by the country’s highest court has led to tensions in the country. The UN said on Friday it had deployed more peacekeeping forces to the country.
President Touadéra said the election will take place despite the instability in the country. Bozizé is among those who say the polls should be suspended until peace and security is feasible.
The Rwanda Defence Force is also one of the largest troop contributors to MINUSCA since 2014.