Rwanda has sent a new contingent of soldiers to Central African Republic (CAR) to quell election violence and protect peacekeepers, President Paul Kagame has said.
The new contingent of soldiers will, however, “not be constrained” by UN rules of engagement, he added.
The troops were deployed in the wee hours of Monday morning, according to sources within the Ministry of Defense, under a bilateral agreement on defense signed between Rwanda and the Central African Republican.
A statement from the government of CAR said they were joined by Russian troops on Monday, who immediately were deployed to counter rebels advancing towards the capital Bangui.
At a press conference on Monday, Kagame said that Rwandan soldiers and police officers serving in Bangui under the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) have been targeted by rebel forces commanded by former President François Bozizé Yangouvonda.
“Troops that have been sent to CAR will not operate within the rules of engagement of UN peacekeepers, but under a new bilateral arrangement with CAR that will authorise them to contain any situation that is aimed at disrupting the elections and also protect Rwandan peacekeepers against being targeted by rebels,” Kagame said.
“This force will really deal with the matter without being constrained by the other rules of engagement but at the same time operating within a legal and legitimate framework.”
UN peacekeeping operations are barred from using force except in self-defence and defense of the mandate under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter.
These restrictions will not apply to the Rwandan troops sent under the special bilateral deal between Rwanda and CAR.
Rwanda has over 6,500 troops and police officers serving in UN missions. Some1,267 troops are in CAR with 147 serving under MUNISCA.
Burundi also has 744 troops serving in the Central African Republic.
Rwandan soldiers have since 2016 provided protection for President Faustin-Archange Touadéra and other top government officials in CAR.
“We also learned that some of them (rebels) wanted to target our own forces in Central Africa because our forces there have been uncompromising,” he said. “If the troops become a deterrent, maybe that is better, so that those who have ideas of being so disruptive may not do that. But if they do it, then the troops are there to do the business they are supposed to do.”
In November, the Security Council extended the mandate of MINUSCA until November 15, 2021, outlining its priorities as protection of civilians, supporting the peace process and preparing for elections.