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US refutes claims of establishing a military base in Rwanda

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, in reaction to social media claims, local media reported Saturday quoting a US embassy in KigaliThe  reaction comes after 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 Deutschsaid 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,” she said

“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.

Published on 28.04.2020

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