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In Darfur, Rwandan Soldiers Relive Their Past

The African Union force, created in 2002, is still in its infancy. The union's chairman, President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, has appealed for $200 million to buy logistical equipment. The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved a bill providing $75 million for the force.

During a recent visit to a base in El Fasher, Gen. Festus Okonkwo of Nigeria sat in an air-conditioned trailer and listed the vehicles in his tiny fleet: three helicopters and six armored personnel carriers.

A Rwandan officer and his troops prepared last month to leave for Darfur, where they now make up part of an African Unity force. (Finbarr O'reilly -- Reuters)

_____Crisis in Sudan_____
Washington Post foreign correspondent Emily Wax has reported on the dire situation facing the people of Darfur in western Sudan.
Sudan's Ragtag Rebels (The Washington Post, Sep 7, 2004)
Wells of Life Run Dry for Sudanese (The Washington Post, Aug 22, 2004)
Targeting the Teachers of Darfur (The Washington Post, Aug 18, 2004)
In Sudan, 'a Big Sheik' Roams Free (The Washington Post, Jul 18, 2004)
Refugees Moved Before Annan Visit (The Washington Post, Jul 2, 2004)
'We Want to Make a Light Baby' (The Washington Post, Jun 30, 2004)
In Sudan, Death and Denial (The Washington Post, Jun 27, 2004)
Chad Broken by Strain of Suffering (The Washington Post, Mar 11, 2004)
Bittersweet Homecomings in War-Weary Sudan (The Washington Post, Jan 5, 2004)

"As many more as you can afford to give me, I will take," Okonkwo told a visiting delegation that included U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.), chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations.

The shortages resonate with the Rwandans.

"We hope and would appreciate the very important help," said Maj. Emmanuel Rugazoora, a Rwandan commander. "We want to solve an African problem. No one should be ashamed to ask for more help where there are people suffering."

Rugazoora encouraged his men to keep working, and not to worry about politics. "Focus on Darfur," he ordered.

"We want to go in deep," said Sendegeya, the private, who grew up as a refugee in Burundi during Rwanda's war. Many of his family's friends, who stayed behind, were killed. "As a Rwandan you feel this should be looked at very carefully and there should be goals," said Sendegeya, 32. "My sentiment is emotional if there is a problem."

There are days when there are not enough cars for all of the monitors to go out, and Sendegeya sits in his tent, cleans up the compound and exercises.

But he said he was glad to be here. "You know, it's interesting because in spite of everything, I feel like I am doing something to resolve the conflict," he said.

Ruzianda, his immediate commander, slapped his friend's back and said he understood.

"Even when I complain, I am very happy to be contributing to this, even a little bit," said Ruzianda, who was a member of the military force that stopped the genocide in Rwanda. "It's different for us."

The Rwandan soldiers, some holding AK-47s, gathered to talk about the good they said they hoped they were doing. Many said they had attended ceremonies back home in April commemorating the 10th anniversary of the genocide.

They talked about the women who attended the ceremonies, many wailing and holding up framed photo collages of the children they had lost. Some of the soldiers mentioned that foreigners descended on their country for the anniversary, but weren't there a decade ago to stop the slaughter. And they spoke about the words inscribed atop the recently opened genocide museum: "Never Again."

One youthful-looking guard, who said he had lost his parents in the genocide, walked away. "I'm going to bed," he said. Another stared bleakly at the ground.

Ruzianda smiled weakly and shrugged his shoulders. "This is my wish: never again. And isn't that what we are proclaiming here? So stop being foolish," he said. "Our continent doesn't need this all over again."

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