The United States Thursday sided with Rwanda in an international
controversy over the status of a Rwandan commander in the U.N.-backed
force in Darfur, UNAMID. The commander is accused of 1990s war
crimes. The State Department says it reviewed the Rwandan general's
case and found no grounds to exclude him from the peacekeeping
operation. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
State Department says a Rwandan pullout from Darfur would "devastate"
the peacekeeping operation, and it is urging the retention of Rwandan
Major General Emmanuel Karake Karenzi as deputy commander of the hybrid
U.N. and African Union force.
A controversy over the status of
Karenzi took a new turn this week when Rwanda warned the United Nations
that it would leave the peacekeeping force if the Rwandan general had
to step down in the face of war crimes allegations.
judge in February indicted Karenzi and 39 other Rwandan officers and
officials for allegedly engaging in reprisal killings after the
country's 1994 genocide.
Karenzi's contract as the number-two
U.N. commander in Darfur is up for renewal, and the United Nations has
reportedly tried to persuade Rwanda to replace him, after calls for his
ouster by Rwandan opposition factions and some human rights groups.
Rwanda has rejected the calls - saying charges against Karenzi are groundless and that he has served with distinction in Darfur.
a news briefing Thursday, Acting State Department Spokesman Gonzalo
Gallegos strongly endorsed a continued role in Darfur for Rwandan
peacekeepers including Karenzi.
"Rwandan peacekeepers in Darfur
are noted for their professionalism and courage. Five of them were
recently killed in the line of duty. Losing four Rwandan battalions
would devastate the operation. It's in the interest of a strong UNAMID
that this general continue as deputy force commander, given his strong
record of performance over the last year," he said.
Asked if the
U.S stance meant indifference about the charges against Karenzi from
the 1990s, Gallegos said that before his U.N. appointment the United
States examined allegations against him and found no grounds to object
to his candidacy.
In 1994, Rwandan Hutu extremists linked to the
government killed an estimated 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and Hutu moderates
in a 100-day outbreak of genocidal violence.
The Spanish charges
against Karenzi and others stem from subsequent revenge killings of
Hutus in Rwanda and camps in neighboring Zaire, now the Democratic
Republic of the Congo.
A senior diplomat who spoke to reporters
here said the decision to support Rwanda, after the U.S. had put out
mixed signals on the issue, was made by Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice following a review of the case.
He said the United States
is urging Rwanda to engage with the Spanish government on the matter,
and is doing what it can diplomatically to keep the Darfur force
together and in place.
Spokesman Gallegos expressed deep concern
about what he termed the deteriorating situation in Darfur, and said
the United States supports the rapid strengthening of UNAMID through
the provision of experienced commanders and additional troops.
that 10,000 troops of UNAMID's authorized strength of 26,000 soldiers
have been deployed to date. Seven peacekeepers including the five
Rwandans were killed in a convoy ambush in Darfur July 8, the most
serious single attack on the force thus far.