Home | News    Tuesday 6 July 2004

South Africa, Rwanda to send peacekeeping forces to Sudan


KIGALI, July 05, 2004 (SAPA) — South Africa and Rwanda will be sending troops to Sudan as part of a United Nations initiative to bring peace to the region, South African Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota said in Kigali on Monday.

He said that South African representatives would be meeting with Rwanda’s government, "possibly as soon as Tuesday," to discuss ways of streamlining their deployment plan of troops to Darfur in Sudan.

South Africa was expected to contribute 10 high-ranking soldiers to the peace effort to act as platoon leaders. Rwanda was expected to provide 100 soldiers.

Lekota was speaking at the signing of a joint military agreement between him and his counterpart, Gen Marcel Gatsinzi.

The bilateral agreement makes provision for the training of the Rwandan military, peace keeping operations, and the provision of military equipment.

"This memorandum of understanding further provides for the establishment of the South Africa-Rwanda Joint Defence Committee to promote the implementation of this cooperation," he said.

Gatsinzi said that with South Africa’s visible support, Rwanda would be able to move forward and help build peace in the region.

But the military agreements which South Africa signed with Rwanda and a similar one it signed with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) two weeks ago have raised the eyebrows of Amnesty International (AI), which believes they are not in the interests of regional peace.

According to Rapport newspaper, AI’s South African Spokesman Samkelo Mokhine, said his organization was against the deal.

"We are against the supply of weapons or training in any area with active conflict, and the DRCongo is such a place," he is quoted to have said.

Mokhine also said AI was against the Rwandan agreement because many of the weapons used in the DRCongo were smuggled through Rwanda.

But Lekota and Gatsinzi defended their agreements by saying that each country had the right to defend itself from a possible invasion.

Lekota added that South Africa’s defence position was not offensive but defensive and that the equipment it manufactured and sold fell into that ambit.

He challenged any organization to report South Africa, the DRCongo or Rwanda to the African Union (AU) or the UN if they felt that they were doing something wrong.

"But the allegations must be backed up with irrefutable evidence," he said.

He said that stability in the region was critical and that peace was the only way to achieve this.

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