E.Africa troops ‘peace enforcing’ in eastern DRC

E.Africa troops ‘peace enforcing’ in eastern DRC


Kenyan President William Ruto said on Monday that East African troops would “enforce peace” in contested eastern DRC, where armed group M23 has launched an offensive.

Kenyan troops deployed as part of an East African Community (EAC) force arrived in the volatile region on November 12.

The regional force will “impose peace on those intent on creating instability,” Ruto said at a news conference in the DRC’s capital, Kinshasa.

The M23, a largely Congolese Tutsi militia, has seized tracts of land in North Kivu province and is approaching the region’s capital, Goma.

The fighting has reignited regional tensions, with the DRC accusing its smaller neighbor Rwanda of backing the M23, something UN experts and US officials have also said in recent months.

Kigali denies supporting the M23 and accuses Kinshasa of collaborating with the FDLR – a former Rwandan Hutu rebel group formed after the 1994 genocide of mainly Tutsi Rwanda in the DRC.

The M23 first gained prominence 10 years ago when it took Goma in 2012 before being driven off and going down.

But it resurfaced late last year, claiming that, among other things, the DRC had failed in a pledge to integrate its fighters into the army.

Kenya is sending about 900 troops to the DRC as part of a joint EAC force created to help restore security.

Ruto said he was aware there were already peacekeeping forces in eastern DRC – a nod to the thousands-strong United Nations force – but suggested East African troops would be stronger.

“From what’s seen in the region, we don’t think there’s much peace to keep,” he said.

– Political dialogue –

Kenyan General Jeff Nyagah, commander of the EAC force, also said upon arrival in Goma on November 16 that the East African operation would be “an intervention force”.

But, he stressed, the priority is to find a political solution to the instability in eastern DRC and to disarm the militias.

Peace talks led by the seven-nation EAC were due to start on Monday in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, but their start date is still unclear.

Ruto told reporters Monday that EAC leaders agreed in their joint mandate for the regional force that the mission should be both peace-securing and peace-enforcing.

The mandate has been communicated to the African Union and the UN Security Council, he said.

The force is expected to include soldiers from Burundi, Uganda and South Sudan, as well as Kenya. However, the intended overall size remains unclear.

The UN peacekeeping force in eastern DRC, known as MONUSCO, currently has a strength of about 16,000 uniformed personnel.

But many in the Democratic Republic of the Congo see the peacekeepers as ineffective.

At least 262,000 people have been displaced by the fighting, the UN estimated last week.

The M23 is just one of around 120 armed groups active in eastern Congo.

Many of them are a legacy of regional wars that flared up before the turn of the century.

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