By Vincent Biruta, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation
Society and the world in general continue to experience security threats of all kinds that have, in many instances, cost countless human lives and left many more deeply traumatized. Populations have lost their means of livelihood on account of destruction of property occasioned by insecurity and violence. Insecurity, taking many forms, is usually a transnational problem caused by the way things are done in a country which can also impact a region.
Taking Rwanda as a case, insecurity took the form of a genocide. Our past history has shown that Rwanda was left alone during the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994 and was abandoned by the international community including the UN troops under the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) that had been in the country for exactly 6 months by April 1994. However, we have learnt from this and our post-genocide trajectory has been focused on taking into consideration those lessons learnt and thus, do things differently. A major part of our national effort has been on building a united country.
With this, the protection of civilians remains at the centre of our domestic laws and part of our foreign policy. The Constitution further mandates the Government of Rwanda to take part in peacekeeping globally and to fully support all the communities affected. This commitment to make a difference, where we can, has also been reflected with the signing of the 2015 Kigali Principles on Protection of Civilians.
Subsequently, Rwanda is such a vibrant advocate of multilateralism for security through its participation in several African Union and United Nations peacebuilding operations. In fact, Rwanda is now ranked in the top five contributor to the UN peacekeeping operations, with over 5,000 troops engaged in various missions since 2004, namely in Darfur (2004), South Sudan (in 2011) and Central African Republic (in 2014).
Additionally, the Government of Rwanda has also entered in bilateral agreements, upon request and after further consultations with relevant stakeholders, and institutions, to deploy Rwandan troops. Most recently, the Rwandan troops in Mozambique have joined their efforts with Mozambique Armed Defence Forces (FADM) and forces from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in designated sectors of responsibility to fight terrorism in Cabo Delgado Province and restore Mozambican state authority. The Joint Forces have already liberated several key towns from the terrorists, which is a step in restoring stability in the country.
Peacebuilding is most definitely a long-term and ongoing process, and cooperation between all actors is critical to minimise and resolve the root causes of security threats. That said, we must pay attention to the local contexts and the situations on the ground. For this reason, the deployment of our troops are not limited to military operations, however, they are also engaged in development activities including in the health sector by providing treatment to local citizens. Our troops have also been introducing our home grown solutions, when fitted, like the monthly community works commonly referred to as Umuganda, to support vulnerable groups and contribute to the welfare of the citizens in the host nation. But above all this, we must understand the concept of ownership from the concerned local actors to achieve concrete and long-lasting results.
All these examples that I have cited are rooted in Rwanda’s domestic approach and have brought our soldiers and police officers closer to the local communities as well as helping them to earn the population’s trust in the countries where they serve. They have also been appreciated by local communities for their discipline, resilience, professionalism, and promotion of dignity for women amongst others.
Because of the lessons learnt and the experiences gained that we want to share with everyone, today, our Government runs the Rwanda Peace Academy, that offers training and research courses with the objective to enhance capacity for conflict prevention and post-conflict management in the region and beyond. It is a project that aims to share values and skills relating to the accumulated experience by our troops, which we hope will have a global impact, that will help create sustainable peace in the world.
In conclusion, regardless of the countries where our troops are, our mission is to protect the ordinary people who are the most vulnerable and at risk and that is why we will always be ready to contribute whenever civilians are endangered. Our goal is to connect with local realities, understand the cultural context and engage the community which most definitely have helped establishing trust and enhance the effectiveness of the missions. We remain ready to assume our responsibility in achieving global peace.