In Rwanda, this is a season of sorrow.
Rwandans are grieving over the senseless slaughter last week of Rwandan members of the joint African Union-United Nations mission in Darfur (UNAMID), in Western Sudan. On Friday 4th December 2009, two Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) soldiers were gunned down in an attack in Saraf Umara, North Darfur. The soldiers were among a platoon of 20 escorting a water tanker that was distributing water to displaced persons. Before anybody could digest that, the following day three more Rwandan peacekeepers were killed while helping to distribute water in an internally displaced persons’ (IDPs) camp.
The gravity of the sorrow is felt even more when you consider that the peacekeepers were assaulted when they were involved in the humanitarian act of transporting and distributing water to the displaced. It says volumes about the government of Sudan, too, that the assaults took place in a government-controlled area. In fact, the Friday ambush occurred near a checkpoint manned by government forces.Unfortunately, the peacekeepers could not respond with equally deadly fire. The gunmen were in civilian clothes and among civilians who were moving in the incident areas.
The fact that there was a third attack last Tuesday points to a group that is organised. Since the rebels are not likely to do anything that would harm the displaced persons, only government remains under suspicion. After all, the UN last November accused the Sudanese government of breaching the status of force agreement with regard to UNAMID. Sudan still places impediments on the movement of the peacekeepers.UN says: “Since January 2009, there have been at least 42 incidents in which a UNAMID patrol was denied passage by a government official.” Government officials have specifically threatened the safety of UNAMID staff and equipment.No wonder then that the governor of the area and the foreign affairs ministry gave conflicting reports. While the governor claimed to have captured “armed looters” who were involved in isolated incidents, the ministry’s press release stated that the incidents were “not random”.
There is no reason to disbelieve rebel claims that the government of Sudan is anxious to show that the war is over. The Darfur Justice and Equality Movement (TEM) says government’s policy is “to oust the peacekeepers and force the IDPs to return home.” We know the Janjaweeds are in waiting – and we know who backs them. The government of Rwanda is said to have asked for an explanation from the government of Sudan but I am yet to know if this explanation has been forthcoming. In the event that there is no explanation given then, will Rwanda stay the course, or will it cut and run?
Rwanda, of course, is not in UNAMID alone. Also, President Paul Kagame has stated that it was not clear if “the attacks targeted Rwandan forces.” Indeed, the fact that the attacks did not necessarily target Rwandans was later borne out by Tuesday’s attack, which was on a Pakistani police unit.
Moreover, Rwanda cannot ‘do a Belgium’ – abandon the defenceless people of Darfur to the mercy of marauders called Janjaweeds, who are backed by the full force of government. In 1994 when the Belgian peacekeepers lost their own to the then crazed Rwanda government forces and left the country, they opened the floodgates of mayhem as other peacekeepers followed suit and ex-FAR/Interahamwe were left to their gory engagement unhindered. Rwanda, with the knowledge of those consequences of the nasty turn of events, has no option but to stay the course.
She, more than the other countries involved, has the obligation to help in the protection of these innocent people whose complete extermination would have been a reality but for the intervention of these very peacekeepers. She has the obligation to show the world that her own people would have been saved if it had been a caring world. However, Rwanda knows only too well that the presence alone of peacekeepers would not have ‘fathered’ the ‘Rwandan solution’ as we know it today. She knows that the ‘Rwandan solution’ is a process that is ongoing that involved totally eradicating a leadership that sought to favour a few Rwandans and alienate the majority, even eliminating some.
It involved setting up a leadership that brought all Rwandans together in a unity and reconciliation effort that has shown them that the enemy to them is not the sick, ignorant, diseased or famished brother/sister next door but the causes of those maledictions. That is how she initiated home-made solutions. Only that when Rwandan peacekeepers try to demonstrate these home-made solutions by, for instance, engaging in ‘umuganda’ (community work) which has proved to be a popular tool for unity and reconciliation back in their country, they are being rewarded with bullets.
Is a ‘Sudanese solution’ a foreseeable possibility?
In the name of the people of Sudan, the international community has the duty to strengthen the peacekeeping mission and create that ‘Sudanese solution’— even if it were to mean forcing the hand of the current leadership.