Contact Us Press Releases AFRICOM Portal
TRANSCRIPT: Ward Press Conference in Rwanda
<i>STUTTGART, Germany, April 22, 2009 -- General William E. "Kip" Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command, held a press conference April 22 in Kigali, Rwanda, with local and foreign journalists at the end of his official, two-day visit. <br /> <br
STUTTGART, Germany, April 22, 2009 -- General William E. "Kip" Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command, held a press conference April 22 in Kigali, Rwanda, with local and foreign journalists at the end of his official, two-day visit.

Ward led a U.S. Africa Command delegation and met with U.S. embassy officials, including U.S. Ambassador Stuart Symington, Rwandan Defense Force leaders, and RDF commanders who recently served in Darfur peacekeeping operations.

Ward told reporters: "As a key partner, we are very happy to be working with the Rwandan Defense Force as they seek to improve their capacity to do various peacekeeping missions as well as contribute in other ways to bringing peace to this region. And what we're doing as a part of this visit is demonstrating to our Rwandan friends that we indeed are a committed partner, committed to this relationship, listening to them, doing the sorts of things that they asked us to do on their behalf, as they work with their regional partners and neighbors, as they work with the African Union, United Nations, in doing things that will help promote stability and security in the region and on the continent."

The press conference took place at Kigali International Airport.

Below is the transcript of the interview. GENERAL WILLIAM E. WARD: Well, good morning, and first, I'd like to thank you all for coming out and being here to allow me to reflect on a trip that I have just recently taken that I am very, very happy about. And this has been a wonderful visit to this fantastic country, and I would especially like to thank the Rwandan Defense Force [chief of defense staff], General [James] Kabarebe, for hosting this visit, as well as our U.S. ambassador to this beautiful country and his country team for all the arrangements that were put in place to set it up. So Ambassador [Stuart] Symington [IV], thank you, sir -- AMBASSADOR STUART SYMINGTON: You're welcome. GEN. WARD: -- for your great assistance in making this trip possible -- very, very impressed with all that I have seen: a most professional force, competent, well-trained, disciplined, well-led, good leadership, caring about things, maintaining standards. That really causes me to see that the Rwandan Defense Force is a force that, in fact, the nation can be proud, and indeed we as a partner to the Rwandans look forward to continuing that partnership. I was here a little over two years ago in a current capacity -- correction, in a different capacity than my current capacity -- and I have just validated, once again, all of my impressions from that first trip, that Rwanda is indeed a country on the move with a professional force that is doing work that's important for its people, but also for this region and indeed the continent. I'm just very, very happy to be associated with that now, as commander of the United States Africa Command. As a key partner, we are very happy to be working with the Rwandan Defense Force as they seek to improve their capacity to do various peacekeeping missions as well as contribute in other ways to bringing peace to this region. And what we're doing as a part of this visit is demonstrating to our Rwandan friends that we indeed are a committed partner, committed to this relationship, listening to them, doing the sorts of things that they asked us to do on their behalf, as they work with their regional partners and neighbors, as they work with the African Union, United Nations, in doing things that will help promote stability and security in the region and on the continent. And by so doing, that stability is felt around the world. It's coupled with a very healthy, healthy dose of what I have seen during my time here in the country, of developmental activities that are -- seem to be serving the people of Rwanda very, very effectively. And that is, to be sure, a fact, I think, that Rwandans can be most proud. This, for me, is an opportunity to reaffirm the work that we seek to do in partnering with Rwanda, our military-to-military activities, those things that we do to enhance our capacities to be better, more efficient, more effective, legitimate forces for the name of peace, being protectors of our societies as opposed to be oppressors. Rwanda is a great example of that, and I am very, very happy to serve with them. We are here -- I looked at and visited many, many things. I had conversations with some of the redeploying peacekeepers that Rwanda has had in Darfur. I was able to listen to those commanders, listen to their perspectives on that situation, so as we continue to work with Rwanda and other peacekeepers, our approach can be reflective of things that they have seen from their eyes, helping us to do our part more effectively as we work on their behalf and in support of their lead activities. And so I just want to close this part by saying, you have seen how those activities have manifested themselves. Our support and cooperation with the Rwandans over the past several years … $20 million of equipment … you've recently seen the airlift support that we provided as Rwandans were deploying to the mission in Darfur. So the partnership that we have is one that we think is a very valuable one, and we look forward to maintaining it, sustaining it and, in fact, improving upon it in ways that are supportive of our mutual objectives towards security and stability, which we know is so important as the development and the other activities that help promote the people in this country, as well as the region, as those activities and events are carried out. So I am very, very happy to be here on this visit, and I am now prepared to take a few of our questions. Thanks very much. QUESTION: …. As the way you were saying, [the] U.S. has been supporting the RDF forces in Darfur, and you have [a] partnership. But recently, it was covered that RDF forces in Darfur, it has problems in terms of equipment, fully -- being fully equipped on the forces which are going there. So General, are you planning to give -- what plans do you have for RDF forces in Darfur, and you -- and are you planning to give more support in regards of training and equipment? Thank you, General. GEN. WARD: Thank you, thank you. First and foremost, understand that the support that the United States provides to peacekeeping forces is not purely determined by those of us who wear a uniform. That support is determined in large part as a function of our foreign policy, and our Department of State is the defining activity for that. Also, we don't do it alone. The United States of America is not in the business of being the sole provider, nor the sole voice, in how those sorts of matters are carried out. Our United Nations representative -- our ambassador to the United Nations -- is a part of those deliberations -- obviously, our Congress, our Department of State. Where those policies are then determined and where, within that set, there are military activities that we, in fact, can carry out, that's where the United States Africa Command is involved. Training -- the equipment aspects of most of those missions are determined not by my command but by our policy-makers, but again, based on the things -- the results of interaction, conversation with the participating nations so that the requirements that they have for logistics support, for equipment, for training, are provided based on what they request of us. I will offer that there are times when those equipment provisions may not meet the full measure of all that is required, or as have been asked for. In those cases, we continue to work to help meet the requirements, but again, if we can't do it, then maybe other nations can contribute as well. But we certainly are concerned about that, we pay attention about that, and we work to do our best to provide what we are asked to provide in ways that make a difference for the contributing nations. In that regard, as a part of my conversations with the leaders who have deployed from Rwanda to Darfur, where we have been made aware of some of the issues associated with the equipment, we will take that back, present that to the appropriate authorities for continued discussion and, hopefully, resolution, so that the equipment that the peacekeepers who are operating in the field require is, in fact, provided. Now, you may recall that when we were here in January, helping to airlift Rwandan equipment to Darfur, there was an equipment deficit. But we were able to take some of our aircraft -- those C-17s that came here designed to do one thing -- but because of a stated and an apparent need for other things, we were able to supplement that mission and include some equipment that those peacekeepers also required on that visit. So we will remain flexible to the degree we can, we remain adaptable, and where those enhancements can be provided, we clearly will seek to do that in ways that are in keeping with the instructions, provisions and policy stances of the nations with whom we work and with -- under whose guidelines we operate. AMB. SYMINGTON: You know, it's a great question, but one thing I want you to know is that right now, we are learning with Rwandans how to do that mission better. We have -- we've worked with 20 Rwandan battalions to improve their peacekeeping skills and to share information. It is a remarkable success, because not only do they learn with us, but we learn with them. And then Rwanda is sharing some of those things that it has picked up with people from other countries. So we've got that training ongoing. As the general mentioned, we delivered a bunch of equipment last year, and a lot of that equipment is now in Darfur, helping out the Rwandan troops that are there. And the third thing is that -- the lift that General Ward mentioned. It's not enough to have the stuff -- you have to get it where you need it and you have to know what do with it. And in the case of Rwanda, all three things. One thing that I'd love for you to know as a Rwandan: In the entire U.N. peacekeeping system, my understanding is that Rwanda is now the sixth-biggest troop contributor. And that's something to be proud of. Something to be even more proud of is what people say about the quality of Rwandan peacekeeping troops. I'll leave it at that, but you deserve some congratulations, and we deserve an awful -- a big thanks to our partner in the military. We're here every day working on these issues. GEN. WARD: Thanks, thank you very much. MODERATOR: Next question please. QUESTION: My name is -- (inaudible, off mike). The question is, in regard to the professionalism of Rwandan Defense Forces, this was a deliberate choice to keep producing more professionals? Second question is in regard to piracy within the Somali waters. Because I think if something could be done, something should be done there to stop the piracy, because it is a threat to the neighborhood. So what is the U.S. planning to do to stop piracy in this water? GEN. WARD: Well, thanks for those two questions. First, with respect to the professionalism of the Rwandan Defense Force, let me say right from the beginning, the Rwandan Defense Force is a very professional force. Those things that we do in support of the Rwandan desire to become more professional are similar to the things that any professional military would do, and that is, as we work day-in and day-out, we always seek to improve our professionalism. It's a characteristic of militaries who desire to be professional all over the world, through schools, through programs of instruction, through new ways of caring for its people and their families. The Rwandans don't need to be told how to be a professional force. They have that. What they asked for are ways to enhance that professionalism, just as we ask for that. And then, so that comes in a mutual way, as we listen to one another, as we learn from one another. As we take those things that we understand from theaters to improve upon our training programs to become better at what we do, to take account of the treatment of innocent civilians in areas and how to best care for them, to do the sort of thing that causes our professional force to increase their professionalism at levels. I was out and visited the Rwandan School of Infantry and was very impressed with the level of training that was taking place, the esprit de corps, the spirit of the people, the men and women, the leadership that was being displayed, the care that was being provided to the soldiers that were there, that were present. To the degree that we can add to that, we seek to do. How that's done is based on how the Rwandans see that going forward, not how we tell them it is going forward. And I think that's appropriate for all of us. Kip Ward got professional-developed a little bit yesterday as well, because we were able to listen to the Rwandans. I could listen -- I could hear from them; I learned from them. So this is a two-way endeavor here, where we learn from one another, and because of that sharing of information, that sharing of ways of doing things, that increased understanding that we get because we see things not just from our point of view but from the point of view of others, that helps us all become better. So that professionalism is there, and it is a mutual, mutual activity. Insofar as piracy is concerned, piracy is indeed -- it's not the United States' problem. Piracy is an international problem; it is a global problem. And so the degree that we as the United States work with other nations to include the nation of Somalia in trying to do things that will help get at piracy, but also get at the root cause of piracy. Piracy didn't just get started; it won't just stop. But once there is an overall policy that the world community has subscribed to with how to help deal with that for the benefit of the Somali people as well as for -- in our global interests, then we will take whatever part that our policy-makers deem appropriate for us in moving ahead on those policy directions. But it is as a part of a global effort, not a unilateral United States effort, just as now, the counter-piracy efforts being accomplished at sea in the Gulf of Aden, the Indian Ocean, are being conducted by a global coalition concerned about the effects of piracy on our global community, on the delivery of humanitarian supplies to the continent of Africa, other places. Again, how that act -- those acts of piracy have devastating effects on people around the world, but most substantially, how it affects in a negative way the people of Somalia. And so working in a global way, with our nation being a part of that global community, not in the lead of it, but as a part of the process, then out of that process, where there are activities that are appropriate for the Department of Defense to conduct, then it is my command that will in fact be responsible for taking the lead in those activities to deal with the scourge of piracy. Thanks very much. MODERATOR: Okay, yes, right here. QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Thank you, General. General, if you could please shed some more light on that two-way relationship, that two-way U.S.-Rwanda military relationship, what you give and what you take from? GEN. WARD: As the ambassador pointed out, our relationship with Rwanda is not a new relationship. I visited Rwanda two years ago. At that time, I was the deputy commander of United States European Command. When I visited Rwanda during those times, we were -- I was able to see some peacekeeping training being performed under our State Department's ACOTA program -- the Africa Contingency Training Operations and Assistance program. Military mentors are part of that program. Saw more of that; that continues. The exchange of our professionals -- our professionals coming here, listening to the Rwandans; again, the Rwandan experience and peacekeeping operations is one that is very, very fine. We learn from the Rwandans; we can take those lessons and adjust our own training programs to reflect the currency of what they see as they have been engaged in these peacekeeping operations. Darfur is but one, is but one. There are exercises that we conduct. One is coming up, Natural Fire, whereby we come together, we work as militaries in helping to deal with natural disasters. How -- what role do we play in helping recover from a natural disaster, some humanitarian crisis? There are many ways that we work together to determine most appropriate lines of activity to take when a crisis occurs so that the crisis can be resolved in the best interests of the people, the people of the nation where it occurs. And so as we work with our Rwandan counterparts, we share these lessons, we promote exercises, we promote interoperability activities that helps create atmospheres where neighbors can work together, as exemplified so recently by the regional cooperation that has existed between Rwanda and its neighbors to help bring peace. How does that come about? We learn, we listen from those sorts of things that occur. And so we see this partnership -- and again, my command views the partnership here in Rwanda as a very key one because of what Rwandans have themselves done in standing up, making a statement, moving ahead with this professional force -- with what I saw as I traveled this beautiful country and seeing the development that is occurring, the orderliness of the society, the promotion of the people of this country. So those are the things that we take from being here in Rwanda that, as I work with others, I can look at as an example of how things can work, in hopes of making progress and moving ahead. It is a mutually rewarding relationship in pursuit of common interest, and that common interest is security, it's stability for peoples of a nation, of a region and in today's globalized world in which we live, it indeed has global implications and effects. And so it is in all of our interests to work together harmoniously as we can to help bring stability and peace. Thank you. QUESTION: Emile Morris (ph) from Rwanda Television. Rwanda has been working hard to restore peace in the region, especially by fighting FDLR. And what is the stance of AFRICOM on that issue, and what is its support in addressing this issue? GEN. WARD: Well, thank you. …. When that cooperation occurred between Rwanda and the DRC to address the problems of the East Congo, I saw that as a very positive development -- a very welcome development -- because it signaled the cooperation between governments -- nations of a region -- that were designed to address a problem, and that problem was keeping both countries from moving ahead. It was a step that was taken, and as I said, a positive step. There was no direct command involvement on our part. It is best accomplished when the nations of the region come together, as in this case, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo did, to say we, together, must do something to address this common problem. It wasn't anything that we did, said -- not our business. Is it something that we look upon favorably? It goes back to what I said about regional security implications for continental security, implications for global security. That step was a step that was taken to further enhance regional, continental and global security. And we saw it as a very positive development and a very good step that was taken. QUESTION: My question goes to the -- (inaudible) -- man from the RDF. Can you just tell us the kind of support that you've been receiving from the U.S.? MAJOR JILL RUTAREMARA, RDF SPOKESPERSON: Yes, thank you. Rwanda, and in particular the Rwanda Defense Force, has partnered with [the] United States in a number of areas, some of which have been mentioned by the general. The United States offers training support to the RDF, and this training support is in two categories. There's training support geared to enhancing our peacekeeping capability and there is also training support geared to enhancing our general professional military development. And if we talk about peacekeeping -- the general has mentioned about [the] ACOTA program -- through [the] ACOTA program -- the RDF receives training of special troops before deployment in peace missions. And number two, through that program, we have also received equipment, including even an expensive and a good simulation center, which is used to simulate a number of peacekeeping operations scenarios. And it has helped to improve and enhance the understanding of the mission areas in which we do deploy. But on the general professional military development, the RDF trains in a number of military institutions in the United States, from the NCOs to cadets -- schools like West Point -- also, unit officers, senior officers train in a number of military institutions in the United States. And we have the majority of our students, also, train under what you call the International Military [Education] Training program, IMET, which trains about 40 RDF personnel every year. And that's a very important program. That is in as far as training is concerned. But related to training, there also are a number of other areas that we are in partnership with. The RDF is in the process of establishing a national defense academy, and we have, so far, sent our officers to Fort Leavenworth in the United States. So we are learning from their experience in terms of the curriculum and in terms of how we can even acquire directing staffs and professors. And we hope we are going to continue with that partnership. We've also received a number of books from the United States Air Force, which are being used by the Rwandan military academy in Nyakinama -- in a northern province -- and as General Ward put it, related also to training, we are involved in a number of exercises. We have participated in "Golden Spear," "African Endeavor," and so far RDF has attended and participated in planning conferences for the exercise "Natural Fire," which we hope will take place in Uganda. And through these exercises, the RDF enhances its capacity to deal with peacekeeping operations, disaster management, humanitarian assistance and such -- and a number of other programs. The general also mentioned strategic airlift, which we've used from the AFRICOM to lift both our personnel during the period of rotation of our troops, but also airlift of our equipment to the food. Apart from airlift, the United States has also -- we are in the partnership in the area of medical. We have a staff, I think that is under the Department of Defense and which works with our directorate of military services, especially in the field of prevention and management of HIV and AIDS. And in addition, we've been working with the United States in humanitarian areas, especially they have assisted our national mining office and the -- that's why you have a Rwanda that is free from mines. So essentially, those are areas that we are in partnership with the United States. And I must also mention that they are also giving us support in the training and also equipping our marine regiment in Rubavu. And yesterday, we had an opportunity to go there with General Ward and to see the progress that's being made. So they have not only offered equipment, but they have also offered training of our marine divers. And this is important, because it will help the Rwanda Defense Forces and Rwanda in general, in curbing smuggling, especially of narcotics, across Lake Kivu. Generally, those are areas that I feel we are cooperating in and they are. GEN. WARD: You know, the thing that's so gratifying is that Rwanda is also training and providing the facilities for training of others of its neighbors. And so it is the Rwandan facilities, it is the Rwandan experience, it is the Rwandan attitude about being a professional in ways that are legitimate, in ways that recognize the rights of individuals, in ways that are responsive to civil government in appropriate ways, in apolitical fashion -- it is that example that I think makes Rwanda such a wonderful place for goodness to continue to move as those experiences are being shared by others. And to the degree that we can provide the sort of assistance that enhances that effort, then we are happy to do so, and especially when those activities support our common and mutual objectives as well. And remember what I said what those were. It is about a secure, stable environment -- country, region, continent -- where the peoples of a nation, a region, can have the benefit of where they live, working on their behalf, and how those efforts, then, contribute to global stability and global security. And the example of Rwanda, in not just being concerned about itself, but also being aware of the importance of what goes on in its neighborhood, and indeed, across the globe, they have stepped up, taken a stand to say we want to do our part in that endeavor. And I think that's very, very good. MAJOR RUTAREMARA: General, sir, with your permission, I can elaborate on that. We've organized, as RDF, organized seminars and workshops on experiences, on lessons learned and best practices for peacekeeping. And the last one that organized here attracted 26 African countries. And not only have we done that, but we have also had our friends from the Tanzania People's Defense Force who want to deploy in Darfur -- they have visited Rwanda to learn from our experience. And they've even asked us to send our officers to Tanzania to help them prepare a battalion that they want to deploy in Darfur. And our officers have been to Tanzania to assist our brothers in Tanzania because of the experiences that we've acquired through peacekeeping operations. MODERATOR: Thank you. We have time just for General Ward to make closing statement and we've got to catch a plane. So General Ward, if you'd like to make a closing statement to the press conference. GEN. WARD: Well, first, let me again start off by thanking Ambassador Symington, sir, and your great embassy staff here for the support. I'd like to thank the Rwanda Defense Force, General Kabarebe, as well as the people of Rwanda for allowing me to visit your country. It's been a very, very productive visit for me, a very informative visit for me, and a visit to come back and renew a very, very good friendship with the leadership of the Rwandan Defense Force here. I've enjoyed my visit. It has been one that I think we've learned from and we can take those lessons to continue to enhance this great relationship. Thanks very much for your being here and listening to us, and all the best to all of you. Thanks very much. (END)