Jitters in region as Kagame fires military action warning

Wednesday December 12 2018

President Paul Kagame presiding over the Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) drill dubbed “Exercise Hard Punch III” at Gabiro Combat Training Centre in the Eastern Province on December 11, 2018. PHOTO | RWANDAN PRESIDENCY


President Paul Kagame has warned ‘enemies of Rwanda’ that they will be dealt with decisively.

The warning comes at a time the East African region was simmering with tensions.

In a rare appearance in military fatigues on Tuesday, President Kagame, while presiding over the Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) drill dubbed “Exercise Hard Punch III” at Gabiro Combat Training Centre in the Eastern Province, said that while Kigali would not attack anybody, the military has the skills and capabilities to deal with the enemy whenever necessary.

“What you have showed us here today is proof of what you can do, what you can use, whenever it is necessary, in real life, not just a training exercise. It is proof of what you are capable of doing to deal with those who provoke Rwanda, those who wish ill to our nation.

“Where can they get us? There is no room for them to succeed with the three characters of courage, determination and the skills which we have within us. We cannot borrow that from anywhere, it is within us,” the Rwandan leader told RDF.

The sacrifices


President Kagame, who is also the Commander-in-Chief, reminded the army of the sacrifices they have to make, within the resources of the country.

“You work under the sun, the rain, in the middle of forests and different tough environments, and we ask ourselves whether what we give you is enough. The answer is that it can never be enough because this job goes beyond the individual, it is for the nation,” President Kagame told the soldiers, reminding them that during the liberation struggle in the 90s, they had much less resources but it was the determination that got them through.

“Most of you here are young but we used to go to the battlefield with 10 bullets in our guns. We used to count each bullet. Maybe our enemies had 100 bullets. To win the war, you do not need 100 bullets. When the bullets are done, you are the one left standing to accomplish the mission,” he said.

Show of might

“Every bullet you shoot counts. You don’t miss the target. Every resource you use must accomplish its purposes. We do not have room to be wasteful. We have to deliver results beyond the resources we have. It is a matter of calculating well. It should be in our DNA,” he told the soldiers.

In a show of might, the RDF engaged in a simulation, using different skills and equipment to annihilate an imaginary enemy in the overlooking hills.

President Kagame and other high ranking government officials watched on as the forces bombarded the hill overlooking the grounds where the exercise was held. President Kagame occasionally used binoculars to have a clear view of the activities.

Rwanda accuses Burundi of harbouring elements of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and other subversive groups plotting to destabilise it. At the same time, Kigali says Uganda facilitates subversive groups, mainly the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) linked to dissident former army Chief of Staff, Gen Kayumba Nyamwasa.

The accusation is one of the reasons that have led to the breakdown of relations between Rwanda and Uganda.

Uncertainty looms

Tensions between Rwanda and Burundi have hit an all-time high following the leaking of a letter last week that Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza wrote to President Yoweri Museveni, openly accusing Kigali of being an enemy of his government.

The Burundian leader accused Rwanda of being behind the 2015 failed coup, harbouring coup plotters and facilitating those wishing to destabilise Burundi. Kigali has persistently denied the accusations and accused Bujumbura of failing to deal with its own crisis.

With elections in the DR Congo slated for December 23, uncertainty looms large in the region as political observers predict volatility, particularly in the conflict-ridden eastern DRC.

Rwanda on Monday said suspected FDLR elements attacked the country from the western border, but the army repulsed them. Four of the attackers were killed in the skirmish, according to the Defence and Military Spokesman, Lt. Col Innocent Munyengango.