Rwanda Military

Rwanda is a small, landlocked country located in Central Africa. It has a population of over 12 million people and an area of 26,338 square kilometers. The country is divided into four provinces and the official language is Kinyarwanda. In terms of military and defense, Rwanda has one of the smallest armies in Central Africa with a total force of around 10,000 personnel. The Rwandan Defense Force consists mostly of ground forces with some limited air assets. Additionally, it has been reported that the Rwandan government spends around 1% of its GDP on defense spending which is one of the lowest in the region. Despite its limited capabilities, Rwanda’s armed forces are well-trained and have proven their effectiveness in peacekeeping missions throughout Africa.┬áSee naturegnosis to learn more about the country of Rwanda.


The UN left the country in 1996 at the urging of the Rwanda government during the then civil war. The defense comprises (2006) 41,000 men enlisted and is organized into four brigades. The material is mainly of older Soviet origin. Defense costs rose from 1.9 to 6.3% of GDP in 1985-96, to 2.6% in 2006. Rwanda participates in UN peacekeeping operations in Sudan (AUMIS). To see related acronyms about this country, please check AbbreviationFinder where you can see that RWA stands for Rwanda.

Rwanda Army

The total force figures for Rwanda’s armed forces are 33,000 active personnel (2018, IISS). In addition, about 2000 semi-military forces are arriving.

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The army has a strength of 32,000 active personnel. Materials include 34 tanks (24 T-54 and T-55, and ten Tiran-5), 106 clearing vehicles, 35 storm tanks, and 90 armored personnel vehicles. In addition, the army has heavy artillery and air defense artillery.

Air Force

The Air Force has a force of about 1,000 active personnel, and 18 helicopters (of which five Mi-24 combat helicopters).

International operations

In 2018, Rwanda participated in the UN operations of the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) with 1378 personnel and eight observers, in Sudan (UNAMID) with 1671 personnel and five observers, and in South Sudan (UNMISS) with 2774 personnel and 23 observers. On April 6, 1994, however, the events took a dramatic turn. Rwanda President Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundi President Cyprien Nytaryamira were both killed in a mortar attack on their plane when they returned to Kigali after attending a peace conference in Tanzania. The attack was the signal for a massacre that over the next 3 months cost 800,000 people their lives. Including the two presidents who were both hutus.

When the mass murder began, France, the United States and Belgium decided in April to send troops to “guarantee the security and evacuate foreigners in the country”. The French troops took control of the airport in Kigali, to guarantee the evacuation of the 600 Frenchmen in the capital.

In the aftermath of the mass murder, the government was overthrown and the RPF took power. The new government was trying to boost the country’s economy again and organize lawsuits against those guilty of what the UN called a “genocide”. Nevertheless, the government did not receive the expected assistance from the western countries, and many members of the militias responsible for the genocide continued to operate from Zaire, to which they had fled.

Throughout 1995 and 96 mass graves were discovered almost weekly, while the violence of the new Rwandan army – based on troops from the RPF – and the Hutu militia cost new lives. Many of the militia victims were witnesses who had seen what happened in 1994 – such as Hutu officials accused of “collaboration”.

The worsening of tensions in eastern Zaire and the mass deportations of refugees further aggravated the human rights situation. In February 1997, Amnesty International condemned the murders of dozens of civilians – both Hutus and Tutsi – as well as the murders of 4 UN officials in the city of Cyangugu.

Despite the request for pardon from both the Pope and the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, 22 people responsible for the genocide were executed in April 1998 in a number of strategically selected places where the most extensive massacres had taken place. Among the four executed in Kigali were the Assistant State Attorney in Kigali, Silas Munyagishali, the former Vice-President of the Democratic Republican Movement, Froduald Karamira as well as Elie Nhimiyimana, who had organized the massacre in the Kigali district of Gikondo. Amnesty International characterized the executions as a “brutal parody of justice that damages any hope of reconciliation in Rwanda after the genocide by simply continuing the spiral of violence”.