They are disciplined, caring, Central Africans on Rwandan peacekeepers

Leave a comment / By: manifel / 07 January, 2021 09:10:25AM
They are disciplined, caring, Central Africans on Rwandan peacekeepers

Residents from a town called Bria, the capital of Haute-Kotto, one of the 14 prefectures of the Central African Republic (CAR), only have kind words for Rwandan peacekeepers serving under the UN Mission there.

Clearly, Rwandan troops serving under the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), are revered everywhere in the country. It is not just in the capital, Bangui, about 500 kilometers to the southwest of Bria.  

Children and adults on the dusty road passing through the crowded PK3 internally displaced people's camp of close to 45,000 people waved to peacekeepers.  

Some shouted "amakuru" (a Kinyarwanda form of greeting) as a convoy of jeeps and armored personnel carriers slowly squeezed through.

Outside the IDP camp, Solange Ballo, 50, told The News Editor that she is not sure what life would have been if Rwandan troops had not arrived. But she is happy they are around anyway.

"They (Rwandan peacekeepers) distributed school kits; pens and pencils and books, to school children in our school recently. My two children also got some," a beaming Ballo said, applauding the civil military cooperation effort by Rwandan troops.

"The Rwandan military is, clearly, here to ensure our security in all ways possible. They are disciplined and caring. They helped secure our presidential election. I was able to vote, thanks to them."

Ballo is one among many Central Africans happy to have got the chance to vote and give the incumbent President Faustin Archange Touadéra, a second term during the December 27, 2020 poll. Touadéra was on January 4 declared winner after garnering 53.92% majority vote count.

Robust, aggressive patrols

A few minutes from the IDP camp is the headquarters of Rwanda Battlegroup 3, a mechanised infantry unit serving under MINUSCA and covering an area of 86,650 square kilometres in the northeast. The distance, by road, from Bangui to Bria is 600 kilometers.

In Bria, just like in Bangui and other places, the mission of the Rwandan peacekeepers is to protect civilians, UN personnel and key installations, as well as help the government's security services restore state authority there.

The Mechanised Infantry Battalion in Bria, an RDF Major told The News Editor, is a Force Commander's quick reaction force that "can deploy anywhere in the country in the shortest time possible" as per MINUSCA's mandate.

On September 20, 2020, the officer said, a coy was deployed to Bocaranga, a sub-prefecture in the prefecture of Ouham-Pendé, 1,035 kilometers to the west, near the border with Cameroon.

They got to their destination in just about a week despite challenges including a deteriorated road network and poor communication infrastructure.

On January 5, another coy was deployed at Bambari, 200 kilometers south west of Bria. To achieve their mission, the officer explained, this Rwandan infantry unit "conducts robust and aggressive day and night patrols in Bria town to deny armed groups the freedom of action."

The Préfet (Governor) of Haute-Kotto, Thierry Evariste Binguinendji, has seen the unit in action and is awed by its abilities.

Binguinendji said: "Last year, the Rwandan army escorted me on a tour of this vast Prefecture, which is the biggest in the Central African Republic. I visited people in remote far away regions who told me they had never been visited by a Prefet in many years.

"Despite the treacherous roads and the prevailing security situation, these soldiers helped me get to these remote places, safely."

Apart from Rwanda BattleGroup 3, Bria is also home to Rwanda's level 2 hospital. It is arguably the best such medical facility under MINUSCA in the country. Two others were established by Serbia and Bangladesh contingents of the UN Mission.

A Level 2 hospital contains all the elements of Level 1, as well as additional facilities like an ICU for critically ill patients and specialist doctors for gynecology and pediatric services.

From the outside, the medical facility looks like a huge compound of tents in the middle of remoteness. But despite the remote and difficult environment outside, inside the tents, one feels like they are in a top notch medical facility.

Help MINUSCA achieve its objective

The fact that Rwanda also deployed there some of its best doctors - including Colonel Prof. Alex Butera, an orthopedic surgeon - and various quality equipment is a sign of how committed Kigali is to the task.

The hospital in Bria provides preventive, curative and advisory health care to UN Staff, military, police, civilian components and humanitarian assistance.

"It is one of the major efforts to help MINUSCA achieve its objective of bringing peace to CAR," Butera said.

Services available there include: aeromedical evaluation teams (AMET), accident and emergency, anaesthesiology and critical care, general surgery, orthopaedic surgery, gynecology, dental, physiotherapy, laboratory services, imaging and psychotherapy. They also have an internal medicine and Covid-19 focal point.

Rwandan doctors there are involved in the success of military operations by, he explained, maximizing military mission success, minimising the impact to health or force strength and ensuring the awareness of medical and environmental hazards.

Butera said: "We enable quick response to disease threats and prevent the threat of contagious diseases. 

"This is because, in most wars or similar conflict situations, diseases kill more people than bullets!"

Butera said they often do Umuganda, a Rwandan communal work exercise most often involving cleaning, in Bria.

And, though the health facility only serves UN personnel, they can also help locals.

"We only help when there is need or it is beyond their capacity and on humanitarian grounds. We respect the UN mandate."

Rwanda's Level 2 hospital in Bria supports contingents from Rwanda, Zambia, Cambodia, Sri Lanka , Mauritania, Pakistani, Nepal, Gabon, Morocco, and Congo Brazzaville.

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