The Rwanda Defence Force (RDF, Kinyarwanda: Ingabo z'u Rwanda, French: Forces rwandaises de défense, Swahili: Nguvu ya Ulinzi ya Watu wa Rwanda) is the national army of Rwanda. The country's armed forces were originally known as the Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR), but following the Rwandan Civil War of 1990-94 and the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, the victorious Rwandan Patriotic Front (Inkotanyi) created a new organization and named it Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA). Later, it was renamed to its current name.
|Rwanda Defence Force|
|Kinyarwanda: Ingabo z'u Rwanda|
French: Forces rwandaises de défense
Swahili: Nguvu ya Ulinzi ya Watu wa Rwanda
|Service branches||Rwandan Army|
Rwandan Air Force
|Headquarters||Post Box 23, Kigali|
|Minister of Defence||Major General Albert Murasira|
|Chief of Defence Staff||General Jean Bosco Kazura|
|2,625,917 males, age 16–49 (2010 est.),|
2,608,110 females, age 16–49 (2010 est.)
|1,685,066 males, age 16–49 (2010 est.),|
1,749,580 females, age 16–49 (2010 est.)
|Budget||$91 million (2015)|
|Percent of GDP||1.1% (2015)|
|History||Military history of Rwanda|
Rwandan Civil War
First Congo War
Second Congo War
Six-Day War (2000)
2009 Eastern Congo offensive
Insurgency in Cabo Delgado
|Ranks||Military ranks of Rwanda|
The RDF comprises:
- High Command Council of the RDF
- General Staff of the RDF
- Rwanda Land Force
- Rwanda Air Force
- Individual units
- Army Band of the RDF
The Rwanda Defence Force’s mission as provided in the Constitution of Rwanda is:
- to defend the territorial integrity and the national sovereignty of the Republic;
- to collaborate with other security organs in safe-guarding public order and enforcement of law;
- to participate in humanitarian activities in case of disasters;
- to contribute to the development of the country;
- to participate in international peace-keeping missions, humanitarian assistance and training.
After it conquered the country in July 1994 in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide of April to July 1994, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) decided to split into a political division (which retained the RPF name) and a military division, which would serve as the official army of the Rwandan state.
Defence spending continues to represent an important share of the national budget, largely due to continuing security problems along Rwanda's frontiers with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi, and lingering concerns about Uganda's intentions towards its former ally.
There is an ongoing, low-level insurgency from Rwandan rebels based in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, mainly the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (or FDLR).
The RDF is regularly deployed in peacekeeping missions in Africa. Rwanda is now one of the largest contributors of personnel on UN missions.
Historical outline 1960–1994Edit
|Rwandan genocide (1994)|
|Rwandan Armed Forces|
|1st and 2nd Congo War|
While Rwanda was a Belgian colony administered as a part of Ruanda-Urundi, its security was provided by the Force Publique, the colonial army of the Belgian Congo. As the Congo was due to achieve independence in 1960 and withdraw its forces, the Belgian Special Resident decided to create an indigenous army to provide for Rwanda's security. On 19 May 1960 he ordered the recruitment of a 650-strong military force to become the Garde Territoriale. The force was later renamed the Garde Nationale. The U.S. Army's Area Handbook for Rwanda, compiled in 1968–9, describes the security forces of Rwanda in 1969 as the 2,500 strong National Guard and the National Police, about 1,200 strong.
The Forces armées rwandaises (FAR) was the national army of Rwanda until July 1994, when the government collapsed in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide and the war with the Rwandan Patriotic Front/(Inkotanyi). The FAR was estimated at 7,000 strong, including approximately 1,200 members of the Gendarmerie. Elite troops included the Presidential Guard, estimated at between 1,000 and 1,300 troops, as well as the Paracommando and Reconnaissance units. These two units were of battalion strength by 1994, and then counted a total of 800 troops.
The Arusha Accords, signed on August 4, 1993, laid out a detailed plan for the integration of the Rwandan Government and Rwandan Patriotic Front military forces. The Rwandan government was to provide 60% of the troops for the new integrated army, but would have to share command positions with the RPF down to the level of battalion. The new army was to consist of no more than 19,000 soldiers and 6,000 Gendarmerie. However radical elements within the Rwandan government were implacably opposed to implementation of the Accords and, instead, began the planning that would lay the foundations for the genocide.
The Reconnaissance Battalion's commander, François-Xavier Nzuwonemeye, and his subordinates played a key role during the genocide. Together with the Reconnaissance Battalion, the Paracommando Battalion under Major Aloys Ntabakuze and the Presidential Guard under Major Protais Mpiranya became the three most significant genocidare units.
Col. Marcel Gatsinzi was briefly named chief of staff of the Rwandan army from April 6 to April 16, 1994, but was replaced by Augustin Bizimungu, who was also promoted to major general on 18 April, since Col. Gatsinzi opposed the genocide. Bizimungu was only briefly chief of staff before fleeing the country. Many soldiers of the FAR have since been implicated by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in the genocide, including its leader during the genocide, Col. Théoneste Bagosora, who was chief of the cabinet (private office) of the Ministry of Defence prior to the genocide.
Many elements of the former Rwandan regime, including soldiers of the FAR, fled to eastern Zaire after the RPF victory, where they formed the Rassemblement Démocratique pour le Rwanda (RDR), which later became the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which is still active in eastern Congo's North Kivu Province.
Kibeho Massacre, 1995Edit
A massacre of internally displaced persons involving Rwandan Patriotic Army elements, at Kibeho in southern Rwanda during April 1995. See main article Kibeho Massacre.
First Congo War, 1996 to 1997Edit
See main article First Congo War.
Second Congo War, 1998 to 2003Edit
See main article Second Congo War.
Circa 2000 during the Second Congo War, the Rwanda Patriotic Army unofficially admitted to having 4,000 to 8,000 troops deployed in the Congo, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, but this was believed to be a substantial understatement. The International Crisis Group estimated that the RPA has between 17,000 and 25,000 troops deployed in the Congo. In April 2001, a United Nations report on the exploitation of the Congo, said the RPA had a minimum of 25,000 troops in the Congo, an estimate the report attributes to "military specialists with a great deal of experience in the region." During the deployment on DRC, Rwandan forces fought the so-called "Six-Day War" against Ugandan forces over the city of Kisangani, leaving at least 1,000 dead.
On 17 September 2002 the first Rwandan soldiers were withdrawn from the eastern DRC. On 5 October Rwanda announced the completion of its withdrawal; MONUC confirmed the departure of over 20,000 Rwandan soldiers.
There is an ongoing, low-level insurgency from Rwandan rebels based in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; mainly the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (or FDLR) During early 2009 the RDF operated in eastern DRC against FDLR rebels in joint operations with the armed forces of the DRC. The initial 2009 deployment was code-named Operation Umoja Wetu. The RDF re-entered the DRC in 2009 to assist the DRC in putting down the Dongo Rebellion. These operations inside the DRC did not prevent cross-border attacks within Rwanda during late 2012, August 2013, December 2018 and December 2019.
There has also been a small number of attacks in southern Rwanda from Burundi-based rebels. These attacks are usually blamed on the National Forces of Liberation (Forces nationales de libération), or FNL. The FNL is the armed wing of an externally-based opposition party: the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change, or MRCD, which was formed by Paul Rusesabagina and Callixte Nsabimana. Rusesabagina is considered by some to be a hero of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide and his actions are portrayed in the Hollywood film 'Hotel Rwanda'. Rusesabagina and Nsabimana were kidnapped and flown to Kigali, where they were arrested, in September 2020. Their trial continues. Incursions into southern Rwanda by armed members of the FNL occurred in 2018 and 2019   and, more recently, on 27 June 2020  and 23 May 2021.
The Rwanda National Congress is another opposition group reported by the Kigali Government as carrying out attacks in Rwanda. These include blame for grenade attacks in Rwanda between 2010 and 2014 that killed at least 17 people and injured over 400 others.
Peace Support OperationsEdit
The RDF has deployed forces on a number of UN and AU endorsed peace support operations in Africa. Rwanda is now one of the largest contributors of personnel on UN missions. Deployments include:
African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) Units were deployed on year-long tours of duty between August 2004 and December 2007. The peak commitment was four battalions.
United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) In the first ever deployment of Rwandan personnel on a United Nations mission, a small contingent of 254 personnel was deployed for year-long tours between November 2005 and September 2010.
African Union/ United Nations Hybrid Mission to Darfur (UNAMID) This UN mission superseded the AU mission in the Darfur region of Sudan. Infantry battalions have been deployed, for year-long tours, between January 2008 and mid-2020. Starting with a peak deployed strength of four battalions, the numbers had declined by mid-2020 to two battalions.
United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) In April 2012 a Rwandan contingent was deployed to this UN mission in the newly independent country of South Sudan. The deployment was continuing in mid-2020, by when an aviation unit, two infantry battalions and a Regional Protection Force battalion were deployed.
AU-led International Support Mission to the CAR (MISCA) This African Union mission to the troubled Central African Republic was joined, between January and September 2014, by a Rwandan mechanised battalion.
United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) This UN mission superseded the AU-led mission in the Central African Republic. Rwanda provides a protection battalion in the capital of Bangui, a level two hospital in the town of Bria and, from September 2017, a battle group comprising a mechanised infantry battalion. During August 2021 the Rwandan was expanded again, when a third Rwandan infantry battalion was deployed to the CAR.
Mozambique On 9 July 2021 a 1000-strong joint Rwandan Military-Police force started deploying to northern Mozambique to assist the national security forces in combating Islamic extremists.  The force was soon in action and within the month was reported to have overrun a terrorist base and inflicted casualties. The Rwandan deployment to Mozambique under a bilateral agreement pre-empted a long-planned Southern African Development Council (SADC) military operation.
Forces Armées RwandaisesEdit
|Term of office||Ref.|
|Took office||Left office||Time in office|
|Chief of Staff of the Rwandan Army|
|April 1992||6 April 1994 †||2 years|
|7 April 1994||17 April 1994||10 days|||
|17 April 1994||July 1994||2 months|||
Rwandan Patriotic Army/Rwanda Defense ForceEdit
|Term of office||Ref.|
|Took office||Left office||Time in office|
|Chief of Defence Staff|
Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa
|October 2002||10 April 2010||7 years, 6 months|
|April 2010||June 2013||3 years, 2 months|
|22 June 2013||4 November 2019||6 years, 4 months|||
Jean Bosco Kazura
|4 November 2019||Incumbent||2 years, 2 months|||
- RDF Command and Staff College, Nyakinama (Musanze District, Northern Province)
- Rwanda Military Academy, Gako (Bugesera District, Eastern Province)
- School of Infantry (Combat Training Centre), Gabiro
- Nasho Training School
Several sources, including Gérard Prunier, document U.S. aid to the RPA before the First Congo War. The officially admitted part of the training was Joint Combined Exchange Training. Prunier strongly implies the United States supplied communications equipment, vehicles, boots, and medicines to the RPA before the war began and after it broke out, delivered second-hand Warsaw Pact weapons and ammunition either directly to Goma or by airdrop along the AFDL front lines. He reports that after the war's outbreak, the U.S. Air Force had switched from using C-141 Starlifters and C-5 Galaxys to deliver the non-lethal aid to Kigali Airport and Entebbe Airport, to airdrops by C-130 Hercules aircraft.
From July 1994 until December 1997 the RPA had six brigades, as designated in the Arusha Accords: 402nd in Kigali and Kigali Rurale Prefecture; 201st in Kibungo, Umatura, and Byumba Prefectures; 301st in Butare, Gikongoro, and Cyangugu Prefectures; 305th in Gitatama and Kibuye Prefectures; and 211th in Gisenyi and Ruhengeri Prefectures. The brigade boundaries mirrored the political administrative boundaries, which often complicated military operations. During the First Congo War the brigade headquarters remained inside Rwanda but directed operations inside the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Jane's World Armies said in July 2009 that 'the RDF is deployed to protect the country's borders and defend against external aggression. There are four divisions, each deploying three brigades:
- 1 Division, based at Kigali, covers the central and east region;
- 2 Division, based at Byumba, covers the north and east region;
- 3 Division, based at Gisenyi, covers the northwest region; and
- 4 (Mechanised) Division, based at Butare, covers the southwest region.
- Artillery Division
Brigades reported include:
- Republican Guard Brigade, Kigali
- Special Forces Brigade
- Engineering Brigade
- 201 Brigade, Kibungo
- 204 Brigade, Gasabo District, Kigali
- 211 Brigade, Gisenyi
- 301 Brigade, Butare
- 305 Brigade, Gitatama
- 307 Brigade
- 402 Brigade, Kigali
- 408 Brigade, Rusizi District
- 411 Brigade
- 501 Brigade
- 503 Brigade
- 511 Brigade, Gicumbe District
Many soldiers from the former Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR), the national army under the previous regime, have been incorporated into the RDF since 1994. This process began soon after the genocide in January 1995, when several former FAR officers were given senior positions in the new armed forces: Col. (later Gen.) Marcel Gatsinzi became the Deputy Chief of Staff of the RPA, Col. Balthazar Ndengeyinka became commander of the 305th Brigade, Lt. Col. Laurent Munyakazi took command of the 99th Battalion, and Lt. Col. (later Brig. Gen.) Emmanuel Habyarimana became an RPA Member of Parliament and Director of Training in the Ministry of Defence. Gen. Gatsinzi later became Director of Security and then Minister of Defence in 2002.
After achieving independence in 1962, the air arm (Force aérienne rwandaise) was formed with Belgian help. By 1972 the first modern equipment started to arrive in the form of seven Alouette IIIs. Other deliveries included Aérospatiale Gazelle, Britten-Norman Islanders, Nord Noratlas, SOCATA Guerrier armed light planes and Eurocopter AS350 Écureuil. After fighting began between the RPA and the government in 1990 most aircraft were shot down, destroyed on the ground or crashed. Few survived.
During December 2012 an aviation unit of three helicopters was sent to the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). The Rwandan Aviation Unit was subsequently increased to six helicopters - reportedly Mi-17.
Despite not being a former British colony, Rwanda has generally used British foot drill during official parades and functions. Since 2019 however, the RDF adopted the Chinese variant of the goosestep, which is today mostly used by countries in Central and Eastern Europe, by communist countries, as well as by countries with a large Prussian/German influence (Russia, China and Chile all being examples of each). It was first displayed in April during the military parade in honor of the Rwandan genocide's silver jubilee on Liberation Day, in which over 1,500 RDF soldiers and policemen trained by six members of the Beijing Garrison Honor Guard Battalion of the People's Liberation Army's Central Theater Command marched while using the goosestep. Mandarin parade commands are used, such as "Look to the Right!" to which the soldiers respond with "One! Two!", which is done similarly in the PLA honor guard Prior to this, only the rebels utilized the goosestep during the Civil War, as they received military training in the neighboring country of Uganda, which uses the goosestep.
The Rwanda Defence Forces Army Band is the military band of the RDF. The RDF Band was founded in 1992 during the Rwandan Civil War and gave its first performance on 8 March 1992. After the war, it was re-established with 46 members. Although it represents the defence forces, it falls under the command of the Land Forces.
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The RPF had very close ties with the Ugandan government as many of its leaders came from the exiled Tutsi community in Uganda and had become an important force within Museveni's rebel force ... As a result, many members of the elite in Rwanda look back on a period of military training in Uganda, and retain close links with the Ugandan military.
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