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Rwandan president:Troops will use force if necessary in Darfur

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KIGALI, Rwanda, Aug 14, 2004 (AP) — Rwandan troops will use force if necessary to protect civilians in Sudan ’s troubled Darfur region, Rwandan President Paul Kagame said Saturday while bidding farewell to dozens of soldiers going to guard unarmed military observers monitoring a cease-fire in the area.

A dozen troops were airlifted to Darfur on Saturday aboard a cargo aircraft carrying armored personnel carriers, arms, ammunition and other military supplies for the troops, said Col. Patrick Karegeya, the Rwandan defense spokesman. The bulk of the force of 154 soldiers will leave Sunday, he said.

The troops are the first foreign military force deployed in Darfur since Arab militiamen began attacking black African farmers in the region, forcing more than 1 million people to flee their homes and leaving at least 2.2 million in urgent need of food and other relief aid.

Their mission is to help protect at least 80 unarmed military observers monitoring a shaky cease-fire between government forces and rebel troops.

But Kagame said the troops were prepared to use force to defend civilians.

"Our forces will not stand by and watch innocent civilians being hacked to death like the case was here in 1994," Kagame said, referring to United Nations troops who didn’t intervene as a genocide unfolded in Rwanda in 1994 because they didn’t have a mandate to stop the slaughter of at least 500,000 minority Tutsis and political moderates from the Hutu majority.

"If it was established that the civilians are in danger, then our forces would certainly intervene and use force to protect civilians...I have no doubt that they certainly will intervene forcefully to protect civilians," Kagame said. "In my view, it does not make sense to give security to peace observers while the local population is left to die."

Rwanda has been pushing African leaders to give the troops a formal mandate to use force to stop attacks on civilians, Rwandan officials said in July.

"If the local population are continued to be killed, and we are prevented from intervening, then (we) will withdraw our troops from this mission," Kagame said. "The size of the forces asked for in my view is too small. One hundred and fifty people cannot go to bring peace to a country many times bigger than Rwanda."

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