Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Rwandans and the African Union in Darfur

The Washington Post has an article about the presence of soldiers of the African Union in Darfur. The ability of the nascent organization to respond is impressive, showing what international organizations can do. What is remarkable about the AU is that the soldiers are Rwandans, many of whom survived the genocide in 1994:
"Every night you go to sleep thinking, 'I could do more. We could do more with a better mandate,' " said Ruzianda, also a Rwandan, whose family fled to Congo during a civil war in his country in the 1990s. "I hate it, to see people living like this. There are some things that remind me of our country when people were fleeing. It can be a shock to see it all again. This time, the only comfort is that at least we are here. At least there is something." ...

The African Union force, created in 2002, is still in its infancy. The union's chairman, President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, has appealed for $200 million to buy logistical equipment. The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved a bill providing $75 million for the force.

"We want to go in deep," said Sendegeya, the private, who grew up as a refugee in Burundi during Rwanda's war. Many of his family's friends, who stayed behind, were killed. "As a Rwandan you feel this should be looked at very carefully and there should be goals," said Sendegeya, 32. "My sentiment is emotional if there is a problem."

There are days when there are not enough cars for all of the monitors to go out, and Sendegeya sits in his tent, cleans up the compound and exercises.

But he said he was glad to be here. "You know, it's interesting because in spite of everything, I feel like I am doing something to resolve the conflict," he said.

Ruzianda, his immediate commander, slapped his friend's back and said he understood.

"Even when I complain, I am very happy to be contributing to this, even a little bit," said Ruzianda, who was a member of the military force that stopped the genocide in Rwanda. "It's different for us." ...

Ruzianda smiled weakly and shrugged his shoulders. "This is my wish: never again. And isn't that what we are proclaiming here? So stop being foolish," he said. "Our continent doesn't need this all over again."


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