The bodies of five Rwandan soldiers, who were serving with the joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force in Sudan's Darfur region, have been returned to Rwanda. They were among seven peacekeepers killed last week in the most severe attack on the peacekeeping force since it began operating in Darfur in January. Rwanda remains committed to the mission in Sudan, but urges other nations to honor their commitments as well. Thomas Rippe reports for VOA from Kigali.
Families of the five slain soldiers huddled on the windy tarmac of Kigali International Airport late Wednesday. Many wore bright purple scarves in remembrance of the 1994 Rwandan genocide in which 800,000 people were killed.
Rwanda Defense Force spokesman Jill Rutaremara says Rwanda understands it will not be easy to bring peace to Sudan.
"We don't expect peace in Sudan just on a silver plate. Sometimes, when even people lose their lives, some level of sacrifice is needed," he said.
Rwanda currently contributes about one-third of the 10,000 troops stationed in Darfur as part of the joint UN-African Union force, known as UNAMID. But Rutaremara says, for the peacekeeping mission to succeed, more needs to be done.
"I imagine if UNAMID had better equipment, for instance, if they had attack helicopters, if they had surveillance aircraft and other logistical support, and if their number was 26,000, as it was planned, I'm sure the situation would not be the same on the ground," he added.
Rutaremara expressed frustration and disappointment with other nations for not honoring their commitments. But he said there is no question about Rwanda's commitment to the mission in Darfur, where Rwandan troops also served with the smaller African Union force that preceded the joint UN-AU mission.
Since 2004, when the RDF troops went to Darfur, so far, we've lost seven soldiers in combat, or in action. And I think, actually I'm sure, in that time, we've saved thousands and thousands of lives."
Rutaremara says Rwandan troops in Darfur will increase their vigilance. He also says UNAMID may have to review its policies in response to the attack on the peacekeepers.