U.S. Ambassador reaffirms support to African partners during Shared Accord



By Capt. Olivia Cobiskey USARAF KIGALI, Rwanda Jun 11, 2018
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KIGALI, Rwanda - Peter Vrooman, U.S. ambassador to Rwanda, said the United States will continue to find opportunities to work with its African partners to build a continent that is safe, stable, and secure during the opening ceremony to finalize the 2018 Shared Accord exercise plan at the Rwanda Military Academy in Gako, Rwanda June 4-8.

“The U.S. Government, through both bi-lateral and multi-lateral security assistance and defense cooperation programs, has made significant investments and provided unwavering support to strengthen the professionalization of African defense forces, including Rwanda,” Vrooman said. “This level of dedication to peacekeeping, protecting the most vulnerable populations in some of the most dangerous places in the world, mirrors the commitment of all the countries represented here who are taking part in Shared Accord 2018.”

In its sixth iteration, the Shared Accord series began between the United States Africa Command and the South Africa National Defense Force (SANDF) in 2013. Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa hosted the events between 2014 and 2017. However, Rwanda has committed to hosting the exercise in 2019, making it the first time a country will host the exercise two years in a row.

“We are proud of the role we continue to play in our partnership with Rwanda, the fourth largest troop contributing country in the world with one of the best international reputations of professionalism in peacekeeping missions,” Vrooman said.

Vrooman added Rwandans, who experienced their own genocide when more than 1 million Rwandans were killed during a three-month period in 1994, are uniquely suited to prepare participants for future security instabilities and peacekeeping operations.

“From what I know about the high standard of leadership, dedication and efforts that Rwanda puts into all its endeavors, this initiative of the RDF should not take anyone by surprise,” Vrooman told the more than 90 participants from 11 African partner nations, three western allied nations, international agencies, and the U.S. military gathered for the final Shared Accord 2018 planning exercise.

Maj. Gen. Innocent Kabandana, the exercise director, agreed that Rwanda’s history provides its people, including its soldiers, a unique understanding of peacekeeping operations.

“Our history gave us the will to stand firm and work towards achieving the ‘never again’ we speak about when there are atrocities, human rights violations and genocide being committed elsewhere in the world … ,” Kabandana said, adding that by sharing their story, Rwandans send a clear message. “We should not be bystanders when the need calls for each of us or all of us to stand and do something in the face of gross violations of human rights.”

The Rwanda Defense Force is also familiar with the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSCA) in the Central African Republic having contributed troops to the peacekeeping operation since its creation in 2014. The MINUSCA mission will be used as a model by the Shared Accord 2018 plans team to build scenarios for the command post exercise, said Kabandana. Rwanda has two contingents, a contingent of police and a level-two hospital, in the Central African Republic.

“Bangui today is not the same as the Bangui of 2014. Rwanda was not a small player in that,” said Kabandana, referring to Rwanda’s work in the Central African Republic. “We are committed to do more. We believe in international cooperation, regional cooperation, working together to achieve a common goal of a peaceful world and that peace starts with our country and our region.”

Kabandana added that Rwanda provides not only training facilities like the one at its military academy, but a stable and secure environment to accommodate the exercises.

Col. Brian Elliott, U.S. Army Africa senior advisor for Shared Accord 2018, agreed with the general.

“I think overall this has been a relatively easy process, primarily because we have such willing and able partners here in Rwanda,” Elliott said. “I know there are still a lot of tasks to accomplish, but I feel confident that together with our RDF hosts, we will complete all those things that are required.”

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