September 15, 2020

No American Military Base Planned in Rwanda – US Embassy

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A Rwanda Defense Force soldier calls in a 9-line report to request a medical evacuation, while Army Sgt. Jonathan Lopez, 1st Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment medic, observes during a medical exercise Sept. 9, 2016, at the Rwanda Military Academy, Rwanda. The exercise, part of a two-week medical course, tested the RDF soldiers’ abilities to apply techniques of care under fire and other battlefield medical tactics. U.S. Army Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment, assigned to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, instructed the course. (U.S. Air Force photo)

A Status of Forces Agreement signed in Kigali between Rwanda and the United States does not mean a military base is going to be established, the US embassy says, in reaction to social media claims.

This past weekend, a six-page document emerged on social media purported to be copy of the exact agreement siged on May 28 by Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Vincent Biruta and US envoy Peter H. Vrooman.

Subsequent commentary by different social media users on the leaked document is generally critical of the agreement; many wondering why government had to endorse such a move by the Americans.

The agreement allows US military personnel and contractors to enter and operate in Rwanda without any oversight from Rwandan institutions. An American soldier or contractor cannot be arrested here under any circumstances. Also, they can bring anything into Rwanda without paying tax.

US embassy spokesperson Janet Deutsch told The Chronicles that Status of Forces Agreements are “signed in many, many countries all around the world.”

“I did see one false social media claim that the Status of Forces Agreement means that the U.S. will have a base in Rwanda. That is absolutely not true,” said Deutsch on Monday.

“Examples of other countries where we have these agreements but do not have bases are: Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Guinea, Eswatini, and many, many more.”

The document circulating online has attracted more interest from Rwandan exiles, with many pointing to reported presence of the US military in this region before, during and after the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.

For example, the US military conducted psychological operations and tactical Special Forces exercises with Rwandan troops a few weeks before the start of the Rwanda-led insurgency in neighboring DR Congo, according to internal US Defense Department documents, as reported by The Washington Post in August 1997.

Since then, the US and Rwanda armies have had various public engagements including U.S. Africa Command providing military airlift support to the Rwandan Defense Forces during the early years of RDF peacekeeping in Sudan’s Darfur region.

The new agreement is broader than a 2005 deal that covers areas of mutual support in military logistics, supplies and services, the Defense Ministry said in a statement following the signing in May.

Critics of the latest agreement, all speaking from outside Rwanda, are not happy because they believe it undermines their quest to force government into negotiations. They would rather see a world power like the US disengage from Rwanda, rather than sign more agreements.

The US is the biggest bilateral donor for Rwanda. In July, Kigali and Washington signed a five-year agreement to commit Rwf 605 Billion to Rwanda’s development efforts.

The American military has also delivered materials and personal protective equipment worth millions of Francs to aid Rwanda’s battle against COVID-19.

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