Let us take the most recent example in Mozambique where a contingent of only 1,000 Rwandan troops deployed there since 10th July have in just one month dealt a decisive blow to the stubborn jihadist fighters affiliated to the Islamic State otherwise known as ISIS. These Islamic fundamentalist rebels had for the last half a decade terrorized the northern part of the country, virtually rendering the gas-rich region inhabitable and unproductive.
Thanks to Rwanda, now the Cabo Delgado Province which borders the southern part of Tanzania is again practically in terms of territorial administration part of mainstream Mozambique. Rwanda’s hand was sought as a last resort after Maputo’s appeal for help from the sixteen-member strong Southern African Development Community (SADC) to intervene had for years gone unaswered. Mozambique is a member, along with South Africa, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Tanzania, Zambia, Swaziland, Mauritius, Madagascar, Democratic Republic of Congo, Comoros, Seychelles and Angola.
Rwanda is not only helping in Southern Africa. In the Central African Republic, its presence is one of the most significant. The country contributes four battalions to the United Nations Multidimensional Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). As well, following the recent additional troops dispatched to CAR for reinforcement, the force in Sudan as part of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), the contribution to United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), and now the troops in Mozambique, Rwanda is easily one of the biggest contributors to peace keeping cause in the world. The joint Rwanda Defense and Police Forces serving abroad now number close to 7,000.
The will to stand with the world’s suffering counts more than any other aspect in these matters, considering the country’s very modest potential economically. The spirit of never again continues to loom large in Kigali’s heart after 1994. To this add the larger than life statesmanship soul in the body of President Paul Kagame, and you end with a country obsessed with achieving more with less.
During a high level meeting on Ending Conflict & Building Peace in Africa that took place in Kigali in 2014, President Paul Kagame famously lamented the inability by African heads of state to resolve issues facing the continent.
Making reference to the Boko Haram menace in Nigeria, the straight talking President wondered why “our leaders who should have been working together all along to address these problems that commonly affect their countries, wait until they are invited to go to Europe to sit there and just… it’s like they are made to sit down and address their problems! Why does anybody wait for that? What image does it even give about us, about Africa? In fact the image it gives is that we are not there to even address these problems! We are there for a photo opportunity! We are happy to sit there in Paris, with the President of France, and just talk about addressing problems! It doesn’t make sense that our leaders cannot get themselves together to address problems affecting our people. It doesn’t make sense”.
Well, it does not make sense but it happens quite often, Mr. President. That for example SADC let an easily solvable insecurity problem bother a member county for five whole years without intervening, yet security cooperation is one of the reasons the organization exists for! https://www.sadc.int/about-sadc/overview/.
Indeed it makes no sense at all that Rwanda a non-member country could come all the way from Eastern Africa to successfully address a security problem which 16 members had looked on indifferently as it unfolded into a nightmare for innocent Africans. Or probably we should cut some slack for the 41-year old organization.
Assuming that SADC had over-estimated the magnitude of the challenge and therefore members were reluctant to commit forces perhaps for fear of what the repercussions might have been.
Let us kindly grant that, and ignore the question related to how Rwanda managed to get ahead of them in terms of more accurately assessing the military strength of the enemy. But shall we at least now expect that SADC has learnt from Rwanda useful moral, organizational and regional solidarity lessons to stand them in good stead going forward? That way Rwanda would feel satisfied that while sister countries down south took so long to act may be out of ignorance, they later proved to be fast learners when a demonstration of what is exactly possible was brought right in their backyards.
Long live Rwanda’s Pan-African spirit. Never should we ever, get tired of taking the lead to save lives.
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