US military aircraft are due to fly Rwandan troops to the Central African Republic in the next few days as part of an African Union mission. The operation will be similar to one conducted in December when two US C-17 cargo planes transported 850 soldiers from Burundi to CAR, Lt. Col. Rob Firman told AFP. (Senior Airman George Goslin / US Air Force)
WASHINGTON — US military aircraft are due to fly Rwandan troops to the Central African Republic in the next few days as part of an African Union mission, a Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday.
The operation, which could start within two days, will be “very similar” to one conducted in December when two US C-17 cargo planes transported 850 soldiers from Burundi to CAR, Lt. Col. Rob Firman told AFP.
“We have a request from the AU to move Rwandans. We’re in the process of coordinating those efforts now with the Rwandans and the French right now,” Gen. David Rodriguez, head of the military’s Africa Command, told reporters last week.
The Pentagon did not say precisely how many Rwandan troops would be ferried to the Central African Republic.
Rwanda said last week it planned to send about 800 troops to join the African Union (AU) force, which is currently 4,000 strong and is due to reach 6,000 at full strength.
The AU contingent, which includes troops from Burundi, Cameroon, Congo Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Chad and Equatorial Guinea, is working alongside some 1,600 French troops.
America’s large fleet of cargo aircraft as well as its surveillance drones are increasingly in demand from French and AU forces after unrest in Mali, CAR and South Sudan.
The US logistical support for Rwanda comes despite a recent chill in relations between the two countries.
In 2012, Washington accused Kigali of supporting the M23 rebellion in the Democratic Republic of Congo and froze $200,000 in military assistance to Rwanda.
In October, the United States renewed its suspension for the fiscal year 2014.
But Washington went ahead with the airlift for the Rwandan troops to CAR as the suspension does not apply to an international peacekeeping mission, officials said.
The Central African Republic descended into sectarian violence and chaos after a March coup in which the mainly Muslim Seleka rebel group overthrew President Francois Bozize.