Category Archives: Rwanda peace keeping

New Houses for 1,500 Elderly Genocide Widows

About twenty years after the tragedy of 1994, about 1,500 elderly genocide survivors from around the country are still either homeless or living in poor, unsatisfactory conditions. The government, through the Genocide survivors fund (FARG), says it is ready to build houses for the homeless and to rehabilitate those which are in critical conditions.

The program groups elders together, in order to facilitate their supervision regarding their living conditions, their health, and their assistance in general for a better, less lonely living style.

In order to make this feasible, Theophile Ruberangeyo, the executive secretary of FARG, says they are thinking of constructing and rehabilitating shared, group.

“These elders suffer from loneliness and lack of care, but if they are somehow together, they will interact each other and it is very easy to be aware of their neighbors’ problems”, he said. Apart from being old aged, some of these widows have other health problems like disabilities, and these should also get special care.

Local leaders, through a video-conference last week, expressed worries that the given budget is not enough to make sure that the houses are sustainable.

For instance, 944 houses slated for rehabilitation were allocated Frw 300 million, a small amount for so many houses. However, Ruberangeyo assured that there is a plan to have the budget increased in the upcoming budget revision.

Gisagara experience

Some districts, like Gisagara, have already adopted the plan. Leandre Karekezi, the mayor of Gisagara district, says that once the elders were living close to one another, it was easy to protect and care for them.

“There even some activities that they can do if they are together. They feel somehow not alone as they could feel if everyone is in his or her own house”, he said.

Inkeragutabara will build the houses, and most of districts have already signed contracts with them. Districts that have not yet signed contracts are requested to do it as soon as possible in order to have all activities starting in all districts.

James Musoni, the Minister of Local Government, appreciated the initiative, arguing that it will help in making sure that these elders are well assisted. He suggested that there be a social worker hired to supervise these elders, providing services like counseling, among others.

According to suggestions from local leaders, each house will accommodate four or five widows. The Minister requested that the FARG establish an overall design of these houses in order to start the construction.

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UK Foreign Minister Praises Rwanda On Regional Security

The visiting UK Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State, William Hague, has commended Rwanda’s cooperation with regional countries in efforts to bring security in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Hague addressed reporters yesterday shortly after meeting President Paul Kagame and Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo at Village Urugwiro, where the leaders discussed the need for a lasting solution to the conflict in Eastern DRC, as well as other bilateral issues. The UK diplomat described the efforts of regional states in the Great Lakes region to bring back peace in the DRC as “positive” in addition to commending Rwanda’s role.

Hague met Rwandan leaders as part of a trip that he is conducting in the region along with UNHCR Special Envoy, Angelina Jolie, to highlight the terrible human cost of warzone rape, and to call on Governments worldwide to address this issue. Rape is rampant in eastern DRC, where armed groups including the FDLR, made up of elements who committed the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, have been using it as a weapon of war against local communities.

In 1998, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) became the first international court to find an accused person guilty of rape as a crime of Genocide. The judgement against Jean Paul Akayesu a former mayor, ruled that rape and sexual assault constituted acts of Genocide as they were committed with the intent to destroy in whole or in part, the Tutsi In Rwanda, between 100,000 and 250,000 women were raped during the 1994 Genocide.

Rwanda has been cooperating on regional efforts to improve security in eastern DRC through working with other regional countries under the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and it has also signed the UN-brokered Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the region. The cooperation framework was signed last month in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia, and it binds the DRC along with ten other countries of the region: Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Namibia, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

Strong Partnership with the UK:

Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo noted that the UK diplomat’s trip is likely to boost relations between the two countries in the next few months. While Hague was critical of Rwanda after a highly controversial UN Group of experts report alleging support to M23 appeared, Mushikiwabo described Rwanda and the UK as strong partners.

“Friends sometimes agree, sometimes disagree. Disagreements have been less than our agreements. So, I have no reason to believe that the partnership and the relationship between Rwanda and the UK have changed dramatically, not at all,” she said. “I think the relationship between our two countries is solid.”

Know Your Heroes

Photo: New Times

Remembering a fallen hero (file photo).

Every year, on February 1, Rwandans celebrate the National Heroes’ Day. It is the day on which we reflect on acts by national heroes and heroines and the values for which they are remembered. Heroes are classified into three categories; Imanzi, Imena and Ingenzi.

Imanzi are supreme heroes who demonstrated outstanding achievements occasioned by supreme sacrifice, outstanding importance and example. This category, which only has the late Maj Gen Fred Rwigema and the Unknown Soldier, can only be awarded posthumously.

Heroes in the Imena category are reputed for their extraordinary acts for the country marked by sacrifice, high importance and example.

The Ingenzi category comprises heroes who are still alive.

The Unknown Soldier (‘Imanzi’)

The Unknown Soldier represents all the fallen soldiers of the liberation struggle. The tomb of the Unknown Soldier is at the National Heroes’ Mausoleum in Remera, next to Amahoro National Stadium. The tomb is a way of commemorating the soldiers whose remains could not be identified after the Liberation war.

Maj Gen. Fred Gisa Rwigema (‘Imanzi’)

Born on April 10, 1957 in Mukiranze village, Kamonyi District (former Gitarama) in the Southern Province, Maj Gen. Fred Gisa Rwigema died on October 2, 1990, on the second day of the Rwanda Patriotic Army liberation war. His parents were Anastasie Kimonyo and Gatarina Mukandilima. The young Rwigema and his family fled to Uganda and settled in Nshungerezi Refugee Camp in the 1960’s following the 1959 pogroms.

On June 20, 1987, he married Janet Urujeni and they were blessed with two children: Junior Gisa and Teta Gisa. In 1974, he went to Tanzania and joined the Front for National Salvation (FRONASA), a rebel group led by Yoweri Museveni. Later in 1976, he travelled to Mozambique and joined the FRELIMO rebels who were fighting for the Mozambican liberation against the Portuguese colonial power. In 1981, 27 soldiers including Rwigema and his childhood friend and current President Paul Kagame, and Museveni, started a liberation struggle against the then regime of Uganda president Milton Obote. Rwigema helped the National Resistance Army (NRA) capture state power in 1986 and was appointed the Ugandan Deputy Minister of Defence.

He was regularly at the front line in northern Uganda during the government’s offensive against remnants of the ousted regime. He attained several positions in the Ugandan army, including Deputy Army Commander and Overall Operations Commander. But despite holding all the above posts, he always held Rwanda at heart. Rwigema is remembered for being among those who greatly inspired the Rwandan refugees to liberate their country, and on October 1, 1990, he spearheaded Rwanda’s liberation struggle. He was shot at the front line on the second day of the attack.

Umwami Mutara III Rudahigwa Charles Léon Pierre (‘Imena’)

He was the son of King Yuhi IV Musinga and Nyiramavugo Kankazi Redegonde. He became King on November 16, 1931 after the abdication of his father on November 13, 1931. During his rule, King Rudahigwa advocated for the welfare of Rwandans, independence, democracy and fought against injustice through the King’s Court. He married Nyiramakomali on October 15, 1933 but separated in 1940. He then married Rosalie Gicanda on January 18, 1942. He worked hard to educate Rwandans through the establishment of the Mutara Fund and requested Jesuits to establish a college in Gitarama but, instead, the college was built in Bujumbura, Burundi. Rudahigwa later set up the Islamic college in Nyamirambo, a Kigali , suburb and another school in Kanyanza and offered scholarships to many Rwandans to study in Europe. Under his reign, he eliminated all forms of slavery and advocated for unity and reconciliation among Rwandans. King Mutara III Rudahigwa died under mysterious circumstances on July 25, 1959 in what many consider to have been an assassination.

Michel Rwagasana (‘Imena’)

Michel Rwagasana was born in 1927, in Gitisi, Nyamagana of Ruhango District in the Southern Province. He attended Groupe Scolaire Astrida, attaining a Diploma in Administration. He married Suzana Nzayire in 1957 and the two were blessed with four children, but he never got a chance to see his last born because he died when his wife was three months pregnant. Rwagasana attained several distinctive positions due to his integrity; he later became the Personal Secretary of King Mutara III Rudahigwa from 1954. His unvarying advocacy for unity, independence and denouncing ethnic differences. He was killed during the regime of Gregory Kayibanda for declining to embrace ethnic segregation.

Agathe Uwilingiyimana (‘Imena’)

Agatha Uwilingiyimana was born on June 23, 1953, in Gitore, Gisagara District of the Southern Province. She was the daughter of Yuvenali Ntibashirakandi and Saverina Nyirantibangwa. She got married to Ignace Barahira in 1976 and was blessed with five children. Uwilingiyimana became the first woman to hold the position of Prime Minister in Rwanda’s history from July 17, 1993 to April 1994. Prior to that, she served as the Minister of Education where she advocated for equal rights among students. During her time in office, she advocated for the rights of women and spearheaded the fight against divisionism. She was assassinated on April 7, 1994 by the Genocida; machinery.

Félicité Niyitegeka (‘Imena’)

Born in 1934, Félicité Niyitegeka was the daughter of Simon Sekabwa and Angelina Nyirampabuka. She was killed on April 21, 1994 during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Niyitegeka is remembered for refusing to part ways with the people who found refuge at Centre Saint Pierre in Gisenyi (currently Rubavu District).

She was just a casual worker when her brother asked her to separate from the Tutsis since the military was aware of her activities, but she declined. When the Interahamwe militias came to her house, she already had over 30 Tutsi refugees in her house. The Interahamwe informed her that she would be spared but her charges would have to be killed, but opted to die alongside them.

Nyange SSS students (‘Imena’)

The Senior Five and Senior Six students of Nyange Secondary School were on March 18 1997, attacked by remnants of the genocidal machinery (during the insurgency days) who forced them to separate themselves along ethnic lines. They refused and the attackers killed six of them, including four girls. Those that were killed are Sylvestre Bizimana, Chantal Mujawamahoro, Beatrice Mukambaraga, Seraphine Mukarutwaza, Helene Benimana, and Valens Ndemeye. The Nyange heroes are among millions of victims of the decades of bad leadership that attempted to erase our characteristic values that were historically built around our common identity since the days of our forefathers.

Understandably, events that commemorate these fallen students and all other celebrated national heroes evoke bitter memories. February 1 is also a reminder that there are exemplary men, women and children, who laid down their lives for this nation and whose love for this country should inspire us all to work hard to advance the same values they strived for.

“Rwanda, our beautiful and dear country / Adorned of hills, lakes and volcanoes / Motherland, would be always filled of happiness…”

Rwanda opposes UN drones in eastern Congo

Rwanda is opposing United Nations plans to use surveillance drones in eastern Congo until there is a full assessment of their use, saying it does not want Africa to become a laboratory for foreign intelligence devices.

According to reports, UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told the Security Council that the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo planned to deploy three unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the country’s conflict-torn eastern provinces.

The mission, known as MONUSCO, has wanted surveillence drones for eastern Congo since 2008.

A request had previously been made by the former head of the UN peacekeeping force for helicopters, drones and other items to improve real-time intelligence gathering.

While the request was never met, the idea generated new interest last year after M23 rebels began taking over large swathes of eastern Congo.

Aided by UN peacekeepers, Congolese troops have been battling the M23, who UN experts and Congolese officials say are backed by Rwanda and Uganda, for nearly a year in the mineral-rich east of the country.

Rwanda, which denies allegations it has been supporting M23, made clear it considered Mr Ladsous’s call for deploying drones premature.

Rwanda’s deputy UN ambassador Olivier Nduhungirehe said it was vital to know before deploying drones what the implications would be for individual countries’ sovereignty.

“It is not wise to use a device on which we don’t have enough information,” Mr Nduhungirehe said.

“Africa shall not become a laboratory for intelligence devices from overseas.”

Other diplomats, including Russia, China and some from Europe, have also expressed reservations.

They said there were unanswered questions about who would receive the information from the drones and how widely it would be disseminated.

They also expressed discomfort at the idea of the United Nations becoming an active gatherer of intelligence.

France, the United States, Britain and other council members are supportive of the idea of using drones.

UN Official Commends Rwanda’s Effort to Help Congolese Refugees

Kigeme — The UN first Assistant Secretary-General for Safety and Security Clotilde Gasarabwe Mbaraga has commended the government of Rwanda for efforts to shelter and protect Congolese refugees who fled the recent fighting between soldiers loyal to the Kinshasa government and M23 rebels.

She made the comments on Saturday during a one day visit to Kigeme refugee settlement, which is home to over 14,000 refugees.

The Congolese nationals arrived in the country after the May 2012 insurgency in the DRC fragile North Kivu province which resulted into an armed fight between the Congolese army (FARDC) and the rebels.

Thousands of civilians fled their homes to neighboring countries, Rwanda included, while others are living in internally displaced persons camps inside the vast country.

Last month, over 4,000 other refugees crossed the Rwandan border, raising fears that the numbers of those fleeing their homeland might grow in the coming days. Subsequently, the government of Rwanda announced plans to expand the 29-hectares Kigeme camp to cope with the growing number of refugees.

Gasarabwe said she was delighted by the treatment and protection refugees are receiving at Kigeme.

She commended, among others, the “cleanliness, infrastructure and security” within the camp.

The UN official also expressed appreciation for Rwanda’s efforts to find a lasting solution to the conflicts which have affected millions of individuals in the sub region.

More effort needed

She urged warring parties in the Democratic Republic of Congo to make every effort to settle their differences so as to allow the civilians return back to their homeland.

Talks between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) government and the M23 rebels aimed at bringing peace to eastern Congo, resumed in the Ugandan capital Kampala at the weekend.

Gasarabwe, a Rwandan, was appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as the first Assistant Secretary-General for Safety and Security in April 2011.

Prior to her UN position, she was Resident Coordinator/UNDP in Mali, and served in the same capacity in Guinea and Djibouti, and as Deputy Resident Representative in Benin since 1998.

Meanwhile, on the same day, Gasarabwe also visited Rwanda National Police headquarters, where she toured anti-Gender Based Violence (GBV) initiatives established by the force.

Among the visited initiatives are the anti GBV block and the anti GBV medical wing – Isange One Stop Centre – situated at Kacyiru Police Hospital.

“This is a very impressive centre and a great commitment to the fight against sexual violence,” Gasarabwe, who was received by the Inspector General of Police Emmanuel K. Gasana, said.

“This is a best practice to be shared around the world, especially in Africa where so many people are being abused,” she added.

Isange One Stop Centre was established in 2009 by the Rwanda National Police (RNP) in partnership with Imbuto Foundation and the United Nations, to provide free medical, legal and psycho-social services such as counselling to victims of GBV.

At Isange One Stop Centre, she inspected different rooms, including safe room where traumatised GBV victims are received and the laboratory.

130 FDLR Combatants Return

AT LEAST 120 members of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) militia have voluntarily returned home since January 1, an official has said.

 

Coming hot on the back of reports that FDLR militia group have joined forces with the Kinshasa government to relaunch fighting with rebel M23 group, ex-combatants of the FDLR have decided that enough is enough and are instead packing their belongings fThe Chairperson of the Rwanda Demobilisation and Reintegration Commission (RDRC), John Sayinzoga, yesterday told The New Times that the UN Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) helped repatriate five ex-combatants and four of their dependants through Rubavu district. MONUSCO also repatriated some 45 “civilians” through the Nkamira transit centre.

“In Nyagatare transit centre in Rusizi district, there is currently a total of 127 ex-combatants. We are not yet sure about the number of the ones coming in t0day (yesterday),” Sayinzoga said, explaining that there is, generally, “a slight” increase in the number of FDLR returnees lately. He said 1, 213 ex-combatants were repatriated in 2012.

Meanwhile, in the past few days, hundreds of the ex-rebels’ dependants have also willingly continued to flock home.

Frederic Ntawukuriryayo, the communications officer at the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs, who was at the Nyagatare refugee transit centre yesterday, said, “We are expecting about 120 returnees today [yesterday], but I can only get the details when they arrive.”

UN sanctions

On December 31, last year, the UN Security Council Committee slapped FDLR leaders with new sanctions, including an arms embargo.

Formed in 2000, the FDLR comprises members of the former Rwandan regime and army that perpetrated the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi before fleeing into eastern DRC. It is one of the largest foreign armed groups operating in the territory of the DRC.

It has committed serious violations of international law involving the targeting of women and children in armed conflict in the DRC, including killing and maiming, sexual violence, and forced displacement

Rwanda elected to UN Security Council

THE United Nations General Assembly yesterday elected Rwanda to one of the rotational seats on the UN Security Council for the 2013-2014 term.

Along with Argentina and Australia, Rwanda was elected on the first ballot.
Rwanda was unopposed in her bid for the Africa seat, but needed to win a two-thirds majority of the 193-member General Assembly. Rwanda won 148 votes.

Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo thanked UN members for the faith they have shown in Rwanda.

“We are grateful to have won the support of so many of our fellow member states who responded to our message. Rwanda values peace and we are honoured to serve.  We particularly thank our friends and allies throughout Africa for their overwhelming support,” Mushikiwabo said.

Rwanda, which enjoyed unanimous backing of the African Union, last served on the Security Council in 1993-94 during which period the country endured Genocide which left more than one million people butchered.

Rwanda is an active member of the UN and the sixth largest contributor to peacekeeping operations worldwide.

“The contrast could not be sharper between that previous tenure — when a genocidal government occupied a prized Security Council seat as its agents waged genocide back home — and the Rwanda of today: a nation of peace, unity, progress and optimism,” Mushikiwabo said.

She stressed how this troubling recent history allows Rwanda to offer a unique perspective on matters of war and peace at the Security Council.

“Working with fellow members, Rwanda will draw on its experience to fight for the robust implementation of the responsibility to protect doctrine that demands that the world takes notice — and action –when innocent civilians face the threat of atrocities at the hands of their governments, with the understanding that situations have specificities that need to be taken into account,” Mushikiwabo said.

The minister promised that Rwanda would seek opportunities to work with fellow UN Security Council members to ensure it is responsive and reflective of the views and aspirations of the developing world, in particular the African continent.

“The world is undergoing a period of exciting but uncertain change.

“Africa is not just growing economically, but our vision and the contribution we can make to the world is also expanding.  Over the next two years, we hope to ensure that this new reality is reflected in the way the UN Security Council conducts itself in the 21st century,” Mushikiwabo said.

Despite a candidate-less campaign against Rwanda, complete with the leak of a UN Sanctions report two days before the vote accusing it of supporting the M23 mutineers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda still won the elections in the fist round as other countries entered the second round.

Rwanda will be replacing South Africa whose term expires in December.

The development meant a lot to Rwandans as many of them expressed their excitement on social networking sites.

The Council is the highest decision making organ at the global body, particularly on matters of maintaining peace.

Rwanda will now represent the eastern and southern Africa region for a two-year term commencing on January 1, 2013.

In accordance with the Security Council’s rotation rules, ten non-permanent UN Security Council seats rotate among the various regional blocs into which UN member states traditionally divide themselves for voting and representation purposes.

Under the procedure, countries are unofficially divided into five geopolitical regional groups; Rwanda belongs to the Africa Group, with 54 member states that translate into 28 per cent of representation at the UN.

The Africa Group is the largest regional grouping by member states with three seats.

By press time, the general assembly had entered another round of voting to decide who wins the second seat. Cambodia, Bhutan and South Korea are also competing for one available Asia-Pacific seat.

 

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Reactions on the election 

“We congratulate the government of Rwanda and we have utmost confidence that it will effectively represent the interests and aspirations of the continent.”
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It shows solidarity among African nations.

“The continent supported Rwanda through the African Union and the East

African Community, as a bloc, also did. There wasn’t any African country that was challenging Rwanda, which shows how much trust Africa has in Rwanda as a nation.”

Kigeme Camp Refugees to Begin School Next Year

Over 2700 children of Congolese refugees currently sheltered at Kigeme Camp are set to begin school next year.

According to officials, over 2700 young boys and girls have already been registered and are pursuing English and Kinyarwanda lessons in the meantime as a way of acquainting them with the Rwandan education system ahead of the academic year.

Currently, activities to build classrooms are underway in areas located near the camp. At least 62 classrooms will be constructed.

Last week, the Minister of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs Marcel Gatsinzi, the UNHCR country representative Neimah Warsame, local leaders and different partners visited the settlement to assess the current state of activities.

The construction of classrooms and other activities are spearheaded by UNHCR in closer cooperation with other UN agencies and NGOs operating in the camp.

“We are moving in the right direction as we prepare for the first intake of students,” Warsame said; as she disclosed that the construction is set to be complete by the end of November.

“Meanwhile, we have started the orientation of pupils as we prepare for the school opening,” Warsame said.

Official statistics indicate that there are about 5,600 children aged between 5 and 17 years, in the camp.

The school targets at least 4500 children and currently 61 teachers have been recruited ahead of the school’s opening next year, officials said.

Gatsinzi said education is one of the basic necessities for a child. He reaffirmed the government’s commitment to ensuring that children are educated.

Over 14000 Congolese nationals who fled fighting that broke out mid this year between soldiers loyal to the Kinshasa government and M23 rebels are living at the recently established settlement.

Regional Stability Is Important to Rwanda – UK Envoy

Rwanda’s foreign policy objective is to have excellent relationship with all her neighbours, the Rwandan High Commissioner to the UK, Ernest Rwamucyo has said.

He was addressing diplomats, journalists, academics and policy researchers at Chatham House in London yesterday.

“Stability in the region is very important for us. We know very well the consequences of instability and the danger and tragedy of conflict,” he said.

The High Commissioner was speaking about Rwanda’s national interests and how these contextualise its regional policies.

He pointed out that Rwanda benefits most when there is peace and stability in the region and has suffered most the consequences of war and instability.

“The whole basis of economic transformation of Rwanda is premised on tourism, financial services, regional trade, ICT services and joint regional infrastructure projects. All these rely heavily on stability, peace and security,” he reiterated.

“For instance, most of our vital tourism infrastructure is located on our frontier with DRC. This makes the stability of DRC vital for Rwanda’s progress”.

He said Rwanda’s pursuit of regional integration is a deliberate strategy to open up the country and the people to a larger and more engaging world instead of remaining insular and inward looking as in the past.

“It is also a means to widen the frontiers for trade, business and market access,” he added.

The High Commissioner noted that Rwanda was currently playing a key role in the regional efforts to find a lasting solution to the DRC conflict through the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR).

He also responded to questions about the recent controversy regarding aid suspension by donors, saying Rwanda is one of the countries where aid delivers the best value for money.

“Rwanda is among the few countries on track to achieve the MDG’s by 2015,’he said.

Citing immunisation, education and health, he said by suspending aid, these services are denied to those who need them.

The basis for suspending aid to Rwanda, he said, is not justified particularly because the aid goes to development and has nothing to do with the allegations of fuelling conflict in Congo.

“There is a moral question there around the rationale and the raison d’être for aid”.

Rwamucyo also said that Rwanda put a very comprehensive response to the accusations levelled by the UN report.

“Our response was very clear where the facts were wrong, and also the fact that the report was submitted without allowing Rwanda to respond to the allegations”. He encouraged the audience to look carefully at the response of Rwanda to the allegations by the UN report.

The High Commissioner also talked about Rwanda Peace Keeping and Support Operations in other parts of the world. Rwandan peace keepers are deployed in Darfur, South Sudan, Haiti, Chad, and Liberia and were involved in stabilising the Comoro’s.

“This is a conscience and deliberate decision Rwanda took because of our immediate history of the genocide and suffering, that we feel others shouldn’t endure if conflict can be mitigated,” the envoy continued to explain.

Today, Rwanda is the 6th largest contributor of UN Peace Keepers in the world.

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