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Rwanda - Military Doctrine

The Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF) is mandated by the Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda to safeguard national sovereignty and defend territorial integrity. The RDF has been involved in a variety of activities to accomplish this mandate.

The RDF, under the Ministry of Defense, is in charge of providing external security, although the RDF also works on internal security and intelligence matters alongside the RNP. In December 2016 the cabinet approved the creation of the Rwanda Investigation Bureau under the Ministry of Justice. The decision effectively removed responsibility for investigations and prosecutions from the RNP and vests it with the newly created bureau. Civilian authorities generally maintained control over the RNP and the RDF, and the government had mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. The RDF normally displayed a high level of military professionalism and discipline.

The success so far achieved by the RDF in this regard has mainly relied on maintaining a credible defence capability, promoting collective security arrangements, defence diplomacy and above all on the support of all Rwandans. The main goal is to preserve peace by means of preventing conflicts and winning wars once imposed on Rwanda or in defence of vital national interests.

Rwandas participation in Peace Support Operations is mainly motivated by the need to take its international responsibility as an active member of the international community. Rwanda Government has so far participated in different initiatives designed to bring about peaceful settlement of disputes and resolution of conflicts.

As a matter of policy, Rwanda considers her involvement in peace support operations not limited to the deployment of troops. The involvement could also take the form of providing good offices, specialist support or facilities. However, for the government of Rwanda to participate in peace support operations especially peacekeeping, there must be requisite conditions favouring deployment of the Defence Force. They include:

  • The operation should be authorised by the UN Security Council or Regional Organisations like the African Union.
  • The operation should have a clear mandate and exit criteria.
  • There should be realistic possibility of success.
  • Participating troops must undertake pre-deployment training since peacekeeping is a secondary function to the Defence Force and requires specific competences and skill sets.

To guarantee effectiveness of its military contribution in a Peacekeeping effort, the government via the MOD ensures that acquisition and maintenance of military equipment takes into account the peculiar requirements of peace support operations. Furthermore, relevant departments in the MoD and the RDF are developing sets of doctrines, operational procedures and training programs in co-operation with foreign partners.

Internal deployments is a responsibility of National Police. The RDF is required by the Constitution to augment National Police capacity upon request or as ordered by government. RDF cooperation with National Police covers areas like:

  • Counter Insurgency operations
  • Drug trafficking
  • Counter terrorism operations
  • Combating proliferation of small arms and light weapons
  • Anti-Smuggling across porous borders
  • And others.

Coordination of response to Disaster is a responsibility of the Office of the Prime Minister. The MoD using RDF capabilities is the lead agency in offering credible response to major disasters. For example: earthquakes; volcanic eruption; major fire outbreaks; locust invasion; excessive drought conditions affecting faun; etc during which the RDF uses land and air capabilities to augment other agencies in reversing the situations.

One of the examples: On Sunday February 3, at 09:35 AM local time, just after the 2008 Lake Kivu earthquake shook several countries in Africas Great Lakes region. This Earthquake measured 5.9 on the moment magnitude scale according to the United States Geological Survey and lasted about 15 seconds. Its 10 kilometres (6 mi) depth epicentre location was at 2.314 S 28.896 E, 20 kilometres east of Bukavu province in the DRC, near the localities of Kavumu and Birava.

The National Police and RDF military personnel deployed in Rusizi and Nyamasheke Districts together with local citizens were the first to rescue the affected people before the arrival of a team consisting of disaster experts from the Prime Ministers Office, Ministry of Defence and that of Local Government dispatched from Kigali to assist the victims.

As regards the impact of the earthquake, 37 people in Western province of Rwanda and 7 people in Bukavu province in DR Congo were reported dead and at least 900 people were seriously injured and several building collapsed in both countries. More than 250 wounded in Rusizi and Nyamasheke Districts were airlifted to King Fayal Hospital, Kanombe Military Hospital and Kigali University Hospital (CHUK) for further treatment.

The RDF routinely tried military offenders and civilians who previously served in the RDF before military tribunals that rendered penalties of fines, imprisonment, or both. Military courts provided defendants with similar rights as civilian courts, including the right of appeal and access to government-held evidence relevant to their cases. Defendants often appeared before military tribunals without legal counsel due to the cost of hiring private attorneys and the unwillingness of some attorneys to defend individuals accused of crimes against state security.

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