Kenya sends troops to DR Congo to fight rebels
Kenya has sent troops to the East Africa Community Regional Force (EACRF) base in the war-torn Congo after a delay that was occasioned by regional politics.
A total of 900 Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) soldiers were yesterday handed a flag in a colourful ceremony presided by President William Ruto at the Embakasi Garrison, Nairobi.
The deployment follows a discussion between Ruto and the heads of African Union and United Nations in the last two days. The troops will help in a disarmament exercise.
He added that he had held talks with the region’s presidents and agreed it was their collective responsibility to confront terrorism and all negative elements that deny the region opportunity for prosperity and growth.
“I have come to the conclusion that it is important and urgent take this deployment. Together with the president of DRC we have agreed on the framework of how Kenya will work with forces from there in disarmament. I dare repeat that we will not allow armed groups to deny us the potential for shared prosperity,” Ruto said.
The President said the move would go a long way in ensuring long-lasting peace in the DRC and assured the Chief of Defence Forces Robert Kibochi of the government support in the peace missions like the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).
He said under EACRF they will endeavour to make sure that the people of Eastern DRC will have peace.
“Every nation desires to guarantee its people peace. Without peace all potential is differed in perpetuity. This has been the unfortunate story of our dear brothers and sisters in Eastern DRC,” he said. “I am confident that you understand the immense nature of the mission you are about to embark on and the expectations that come with it.”
During the occasion, the troops displayed various specialised and armoured vehicles to be used by the troops in the operation. Kenya now joins two battalions each from Uganda and Burundi and one from South Africa.
CDF Kibochi expressed optimism saying the success in the mission largely depended on the good political and international good will.
“Today’s event underscores our commitment as a country to ensure peace in the region,” he said.
The deployment follows a decision endorsed and adopted by regional leaders at the third EAC Heads of State Conclave on Peace and Security in Eastern DRC held in Nairobi in June 2022.
The Conclave agreed to have an EACRF to contain violence in the Eastern DRC. The EACRF in March this year held a Command Post Exercise dubbed, ‘Mashariki Salaam’ in Nairobi which was aimed at boosting structures and help member states in planning, preparation and execution of multi-dimensional peace support operations.
EASF was established in 2004 with the objectives of discharging in a timely manner, the functions of maintaining peace and security. It is mandated by the AU Peace and Security Council to respond effectively to crises within Eastern Africa and across the African continent.
There has been rising tension between Rwanda and the DRC over Kigali’s alleged support for the M23, a notorious rebel group.
Kinshasa claims Kigali is backing the M23 – a primarily Congolese Tutsi group – after clashes between its fighters and the Congolese army broke out last week in the North Kivu province, which borders Rwanda. On September 9, DRC’s President Felix Tshsekedi presided over the signing of an agreement giving green light to the deployment of the joint forces to fight the militants.
EAC Secretary General, Peter Mathuki and DRC Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Christophe Lutundula Apala Pen’Apala signed the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) at the official residence of the President in Kinshasa, DRC. The SOFA outlines the obligations and responsibilities of the regional force while on DRC territory and the facilitation and support that will be granted by the DRC government in line with the Constitution and applicable laws.
The Force headquarters has been established and key personnel appointed and include EAC Force Commander Major General Jeff Nyagah from Kenya and one of the two deputies Brigadier Emma Kaputa of the DRC.
Kenya’s African Union (AU) peace envoy former retired President Uhuru Kenyatta last week condemned the escalation of conflict in parts DRC and called on the parties involved to “agree to a cessation of hostilities” and engage in peace talks.