Rwanda

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Republic of Rwanda

The present day Republic of Rwanda (République du Rwanda) was originally inhabited by the Twa people, but a series of migrations beginning in 700 BCE brought the Hutu and Tutsi tribes into the region. The Kingdom of Banyarwanda (or Kingdom of Rwanda) was founded by the Tutsi in the 15th century and reigned over the surrounding region into the 19th century, when pressure from European colonial powers forced the kingdom into decline. By the terms of the Berlin Conference, a territory known as Ruanda-Urundi (comprising present day Rwanda and neighboring Burundi) was established and placed under the administration of Germany as part of German East Africa. Following the First World War, the territory came under Belgian administration as part of a mandate from the League of Nations in 1919. Both nations perpetuated the historic class system which favored the Tutsi, a policy that would cause resentment and ultimately lead to ethnic violence that would plague the region into the late 20th century.

As most African nations moved towards independence in the 1950s, two rival groups emerged in Rwanda: a Tutsi-supported movement advocating maintenance of the status quo, and a Hutu-dominated movement which sought an end to what they viewed as Tutsi-feudalism. Belgium ultimately supported the Hutu movement and tensions rose between the tribal factions, culminating in the Rwandan Revolution or "wind of destruction" which raged from 1959 into the 1960s and resulted in tens of thousands of Tutsis killed and many more seeking refuge in neighboring countries. Belgian military intervention prevented further violence, and in 1962 the traditional monarchy was abolished, Rwanda and Burundi became separate nations, and democratic elections were held. Cycles of violence would continue until 1973, when Juvénal Habyarimana staged a military coup d'etat and assumed the presidency. During his reign, violence against the Tutsis declined considerably and the nation improved its economic status.

The Rwandan Civil War was sparked by an invasion of northern Rwanda in 1990 by militant Tutsi refugees operating under the name Front Patriotique Rwandaise or Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). Supported by France and later by Zaire the Rwandand Armed Forces initially quelled the insurrection, but as RPF numbers increased the government was forced into a stalemate. A brief cease fire was negotiated in 1993, but it ended when president Habyarimana's plane was shot down in 1994 by unknown perpetrators, and the Hutu population subsequently placing blame on the Tutsi. What transpired after was one of the worst periods of genocide in recent African history, with between 500,000 and 1,000,000 Rwandans (mostly Tutsi) killed and many more horribly maimed in a wave of violence orchestrated by Hutu extremists known as the Akazu. The RPF renewed their military offensive, methodically taking control of the nation until victory in July of 1994. International response to the genocide was very limited and has been highly criticized.

A transitional government under Pasteur Bizimungu faced immediate problems as hundreds of thousands of Hutus fled to neighboring countries (in particular Zaire) fearing reprisals from the new RPF-dominated government. Many died of disease languishing in refugee camps, and more were killed when the newly formed Rwandan Defense Forces launched cross-border operations against the camps. A period of reconciliation and justice followed, with a new constitution ratified and the reintroduction of a traditional village court system.

The Forces Armées Rwandaises (Rwandand Armed Forces) or FAR was the national army's name from 1960 to 1994, during which time the government and the military were dominated by the Hutu tribe. Consisting of a national Army of approximately 7,000 personnel, and a national Gendarmerie of around 1,200, the Army was populated by several units with "elite" status, including the Presidential Guard, Para-Commando Battalion, and a Reconnaissance Battalion. Following the RPF invasion in 1990, the FAR received considerable assistance from France and increased in size to as many as 30,000 personnel.

Following the government's defeat in 1994 by the RPF, the armed forces were reformed as the Forces Rwandaises de Défense or Rwanda Defense Forces, composed initially mostly of ex-members of the Rwandan Patriotic Front. Since 1994, a large number of ex-FAR members have been incorporated into the new armed Defense Forces, including a number of former officers appointed to high-ranking positions.

Rwandan Camouflage Patterns

  • Contemporary records show that during the initial period of post-independence, units of the FAR that wore camouflage were issued with ex-Belgian Army jigsaw pattern uniforms. These were probably limited in use to the Presidential Guard, and elite units such as the Para-Commandos and Reconnaissance Battalion.

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  • Dating probably to the late 1980s or early 1990s, airborne and commando units of the FAR wore a unique DPM-based camouflage design inccorporating reddish-brown and mid-green disruptive shapes on a pale green background. This "sparse DPM" pattern, of South Korean origin, also saw limited use by government forces in Angola and by PLAN in South West Africa.

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  • During the Rwandan Civil War, the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPF) were outfitted with large numbers of surplus East German strichtarn or rain pattern camouflage uniforms. Once the RPF achieved victory, the uniforms quickly fell into disuse.

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  • The newly formed Forces Rwandaises de Défense have been outfitted in several types of camouflage, including a copy of the old French tenue de leópard or lizard pattern. Dating primarily to the late 1990s, the uniforms also seem to have fallen into gradual disuse.

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  • Several variations of the US m81 woodland camouflage pattern have been in use with the FRD since the early 2000s. These have most likely been sourced from Asian producers in China or South Korea, although a locally-produced variant has also been documented.

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  • Rwandan troops serving with the OAU and United Nations in recent years have been issued a "chocolate chip" camouflage variation featuring black & white "chips" over chocolate brown, burnt orange, & pinkish-tan shapes on a sandy background.

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  • Made specifically for the Rwanda Defence Force, the pattern below seems to be a pixelated version of the standard woodland design previously issued. This pattern began replacing the old version in 2015.

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