KIGALI, Rwanda – Nebraska National Guard and Rwanda Defence Force leaders formalized a new partnership Dec. 12, becoming the newest partners in the Defense Department's State Partnership Program (SPP).
The SPP is administered by the National Guard Bureau and supports theater commanders' security cooperation objectives. The program has been successfully building mutually beneficial relationships around the globe for over 25 years.
"The Nebraska National Guard is honored to have a new state partnership and build an even stronger relationship between the United States and Rwanda," said Air Force Maj. Gen. Daryl L. Bohac, Nebraska National Guard adjutant general. Bohac said that in today's complex, dangerous world, it is rare that one nation can alone overcome all its challenges; rather, today's world requires countries to collaborate while building upon shared goals, strengths and ideals.
"This partnership will enable us to do that, to indeed bring security and peace wherever we serve together," Bohac said.
The partnership will lay the foundation for a long-term relationship by sharing expertise in emergency and disaster response and strengthening cooperation in peacekeeping and readiness, Nebraska National Guard officials said. Rwanda, they added, is quite familiar with the latter task, contributing more troops each year to United Nations peacekeeping missions than all but a few much larger countries.
"You mentioned that the world today can be dangerous," said Gen. Jean-Bosco Kazura, Rwanda's chief of defence staff. "It could be also dangerous tomorrow. It is up to us here in this room, and to those who are not in this room, to make sure this becomes a better world. And we can do it successfully, but only if we put our efforts together."
"The Rwanda Defence Force is eager to partner with Nebraska National Guard to exchange knowledge and experience in areas such as capacity building of our defence forces, disaster management and other areas of cooperation that will benefit our citizens," added Lt. Col. Innocent Munyengango, RDF spokesperson.
"I am proud to see the growing collaboration between Rwanda and Nebraska," said U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda Peter H. Vrooman. "This new state partnership, like the impressive investments that Nebraskans are making here in conservation agriculture, will be rewarding for the people of both countries."
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts echoed those thoughts.
"Building partnerships is fundamental to the National Guard's mission," said Ricketts, commander-in-chief, Nebraska National Guard. "The Guard is most effective when it has strong, cooperative relationships with state agencies and community groups here in Nebraska and with professional military forces overseas. Rwanda is well known for its contributions to international peacekeeping missions, and Rwanda itself – located in central Africa's great lakes region – is one of the safest places in Africa. I encourage Nebraskans to learn more about Rwanda and find ways to share the good life with our new partners."
As the newest SPP effort, the Nebraska-Rwanda relationship will be the latest chapter of a quarter-century National Guard initiative.
"We are thrilled to partner with Rwanda," said Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief, National Guard Bureau. "We work with our partners not only as one military to another but also as American citizens to partner citizens. When we establish partnerships this way, employing the full range of skills resident in the National Guard, we are preparing ourselves, our allies and our partners to confront the full range of challenges in an increasingly complex international security environment. Ultimately, we're helping to create a more stable and secure future."
The Nebraska and Rwanda pairing will be the 77th partnership under the State Partnership Program.
"This journey that started in 1993 [with the establishment of the SPP], that brings us here today, that we will continue today, is a journey of commitment and endurance, and we will be together for a long time," Bohac said.
Nebraska will also continue its other partnership, with the Czech Republic and the Texas National Guard.
"Just as this past summer we celebrated 26 years of partnership with the Czech Republic, and in another 26 years I am sure we will be together still celebrating this partnership with Rwanda," Bohac added.