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Photos: Kagame turns up for combat drill in full military fatigue for first time in 20 years

SECURITY | Rwandan President Paul Kagame Tuesday adorned full military fatigue for the first time in nearly twenty years, to the surprise and delight of his military forces.

Sources in Kigali say it is the first time the Rwandan leader and Commander in Chief of Rwanda Defence Forces was being seen in military uniform since assuming the presidency of the central African state in 2000.

Kagame, a military officer who led the Rwanda Patriotic Army in ending the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, took over office in 2000 when his predecessor, Pasteur Bizimungu, resigned. He had been the vice-president and defence minister until then.

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President Kagame was not in military uniform in 2003 when he retired from the army at the rank of Major-General. Over the last 18 years, he has assumed a civilian public outlook and is not addressed by his military title in Rwandan public life.

All this, though, was given a new meaning on Tuesday when Kagame, in a prim and proper military fatigue, showed up at the Gabiro Combat Training Centre for the final phase of the annual Combined Arms Field Training Exercise.

Sources say Kagame was out that way to motivate his military after the rigorous training and it didn’t take long for the soldiers to figure this out as their commander in chief spoke of commitment and determination in the face of challenges.

“You work under the sun, the rain, in the middle of forests and different environments, and we ask ourselves whether what we give you is enough. The answer is that it can never be enough because this job goes beyond the individual, it is for the nation,” Kagame told the soldiers.

He said the choice to serve in the capacity of protecting citizens requires more from soldiers than the means they are given in terms of salary or resources available to a nation.

“The challenges do not stop you from doing the work that you do. When we look at salaries or other resources, we know that even though you deserve to be given more, we do not have enough means. We also have to spend the little we have on education, health and on delivering development to our citizens,” Kagame said as he sent a warning to those who might seek to destabilise his country that the Rwandan military is too good to be breached.

“Our enemies can only wish us ill but they will never be able to defeat us. Anyone who dares to threaten our security will fail,” he said.

The comment did not appear like a message to any ‘enemy’ in particular as there isn’t any known military threat to Rwanda’s territorial integrity as the central African state does not face even a rebel threat, within or without.

Talks earlier this year that some rebels could take on the RDF to overthrow the government of Kagame have proved unfounded. In the meantime, however, Rwanda is more actively engaged in peacekeeping missions.

The military drill in estern Rwanda marked the conclusion of the final phase of the annual Combined Arms Field Training Exercise code-named, “Exercise Hard Punch III/2018.”

The annual drill, in its third year, saw a demonstration on how different military capabilities are integrated and synchronised during a military operation. The Rwandan presidency said the exercise is aimed at perfecting drills that are necessary for efficient employment, harbouring, occupation of positions, movement of division troops and equipment as well as cooperation of all arms in any military operational situation.

Kagame arrived in Gabiro for the afternoon function with his security detail as well adorning full military fatigues. The only semblance of civilian around him was Range Rover Sport.

But the trainees would have hardly noticed anyway, as Kagame enchanted them with motivations about bravery and dedication, saying the two virtues alone are not enough “but they are the foundation.”

“You have to seek knowledge and do your job to the best of your ability. That is what makes a qualified army. What you have showed us here today is proof that you are capable of dealing with those who wish ill to our nation. There is no room for them to succeed with the courage, determination and the skills we have within us,” he said.

Kagame urged his military to deliver results whenever called up to duty, saying there is no room for wasting resource.

“Every bullet you shoot counts. Every resource you use must accomplish its purposes. We do not have room to waste. We have to deliver results beyond the resources we have,” he said.

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