U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. James R. Kriesel, deputy commanding general of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, visited Kigali, Rwanda, May 6-8, as part of a familiarization visit to countries within CJTF-HOA’s combined joint operations area.
Kriesel and his team met with key leaders at the U.S. Embassy Rwanda and Rwanda Defence Force headquarters, and visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial here while the country honored the 25th anniversary of the tragedy.
“Nothing could have prepared me for the experience the memorial offered,” Kriesel said. “It’s extremely important to continue to educate the world about the atrocities that were committed against the Tutsi people.”
A survivor of the genocide led Kriesel and his team on a private tour through the memorial, which holds the bodies of more than 250,000 of the estimated one million victims.
Kriesel presented a military coin to the survivor; however, overwhelmed by the magnitude of everything he had just learned about the genocide, Kriesel found himself unable to offer any words other than a heartfelt, “thank you.” Kriesel said the magnitude of the genocide, the personal story of survival and the materials presented during the tour of the memorial left him speechless.
In addition to visiting the memorial, Kriesel met with Maj. Gen. Ferdinand Safari, director general of policy and strategy for the Republic of Rwanda Ministry of Defence. One focus of the conversation was assigning a Rwandan foreign liaison officer to the CJTF-HOA team.
“I’m very glad to have CJTF-HOA here to discuss mutual interest and support plans,” Safari said. “We gladly accepted the invitation to send a foreign liaison officer to be part of the team and look forward to growing our partnership.”
To culminate the visit, Kriesel met with the U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda, Peter Vrooman, and U.S. Embassy Rwanda country-specific subject matter experts, who briefed the general on project statuses and security. They highlighted the importance of Rwanda’s contribution to peacekeeping in the region and the tangible development impact the country has achieved only a quarter of a century after the genocide.
“This country trains to be experts in peacekeeping and the Kigali Principles,” said Vrooman.
The Kigali Principles were established to inform the implementation of the protection of civilians in Peacekeeping and frame a core commitment endorsed by many member states of the United Nations to prevent genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. Kriesel said he plans to emphasize these principles while working with other military affiliated within CJTF-HOA’s combined joint operation area.
“We are here to develop a mature relationship with militaries that are willing to work together with U.S. and Coalition partners across the combined joint operations area,” Kriesel said.
One specific program praised across all engagements with key leaders during the visit was the U.S. International Military Education and Training (IMET) program. The program gives foreign military officers the opportunity to attend U.S. military professional education, such as the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy, and war colleges. Over time, the IMET program has proven to be a critical component in building the strong partnership between the U.S. Department of Defense and the Rwanda Defence Force, which exists today.
Kriesel emphasized key leader engagements and trips like these are imperative to mission success.
“These face-to-face interactions create longstanding trust, which enables strategic access and furthers African solutions,” said Kriesel. “The value that comes from engagements such as these is invaluable to an organization. We are here to work together. What appears as a few short days of meetings, in reality, results being more prepared today than yesterday and has an exponential affect--you can’t surge trust.”