HOME SWEET HOME: The last batch of the 51st Battalion on arrival from peacekeeping mission in Darfur at Kigali International Airport( Photo/ J. Mbanda)

KICUKIRO – Rwanda Defense Force peacekeepers are successfully restoring peace in the troubled Darfur region of Sudan, a senior RDF officer has said.

Lt. Col. Ludovick Mugisha who commanded the just returned 51 battalion said that the troops were effective in their mission in Darfur.

“There is a visible improvement in terms of security in Darfur compared to what was on the ground a year ago when we had just been deployed,” he said.  

The last batch of the 680-strong 51 battalion that operated under the auspices of the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) landed at Kigali International Airport yesterday afternoon.

The 51 battalion was the first to be deployed after the United Nations (UN) joined efforts with the African Union (AU) to form a hybrid force to maintain peace in the troubled western Sudan region of Darfur.

“Same as other troops deployed in Sudan, the 51 battalion operated with minimal equipment though it did not halt its operations,” Mugisha said, adding, “We effectively managed to execute our duties; there were no interruptions though I believe the processes of fully equipping the troops is underway.”

The battalion returned with four men less after two died in a vehicle accident on the second day of the deployment while two others died of sickness.

Lt. Col. Mugisha’s battalion was deployed in Sector West.
Upon their arrival at the airport, the seemingly excited troops were welcomed by the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. James Kabarebe, who commended them for a job well done.

“You aptly exercised your duties; your conduct on duty expressed that you were so much result oriented, you maintained a commendable job. I followed you up from day to day,” Kabarebe told the returning troops.

Immediately after, the CDS also permitted the troops to meet their families.

Currently, Rwanda has four battalions deployed in different sectors of the Darfur and the rotation of other battalions is expected to go on until December.

However, the battalions to be redeployed will, unlike their predecessors, be 800-troop strong as a way of conforming with UN standards.

About 2, 500 RDF troops are deployed in the troubled region. The number increased following the creation of the UN-AU Hybrid Force to maintain peace in Darfur which has been marred by violence since early 2003.

Rwanda deployed troops for the first time in Darfur in August, 2004, as part of continental efforts to end years of violence that has claimed at least 200,000 people and displaced another 2.5 million since it broke out in February 2003.