A second contingent of Kenyan soldiers arrived in Goma, the provincial chief town of North Kivu Nov 16 to join the East African Community (EAC) regional force under the threat of attacks by the M23 rebels who continue their offensive in the eastern DR Congo.
“Nobody will capture Goma. We are here to protect the town and the airport”, declared Kenyan major-general Jeff Nyagah, who is the commander of the EAC forces, upon his arrival in Goma.
The EAC regional force, it should be recalled, also consists of soldiers from Burundi, Uganda and South Sudan.
The new Kenyan contingent is made up of sixty soldiers and arrived in Goma aboard two Kenyan military planes. It arrived in Goma four days after an earlier group of 903 Kenyan soldiers arrived the DR Congo.
“The East African force is an intervention force and not a peacekeeping force”, declared major-general Nyagah who was clarifying the difference between the East African Community force and the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the DR Congo (MONUSCO).
Most Congolese blame the UN force in the country for their inefficiency in the fight against about 120 armed groups wreaking havoc in the eastern part of the country.
Major-general Nyagah underlined the fact that the priority of the EAC force is to bring back peace to the region through “political means” followed by “disarmament and demobilisation of armed groups and not only the M23”.
“The groups that refuse to lay down their arms and take the political road will have us to face. We have no doubt about that”, the Kenyan general added.
Meanwhile, after several days of fierce fighting, the M23 rebel group says it has captured the town of Kibumba.
The Congolese army, FARDC, has made no official statement concerning the situation in the town, but a senior FARDC official on condition of anonymity confirms that Congolese forces had “disconnected from the town” and are now based four kilometres from Kibumba.
“They (M23) have the arms that rebels can never acquire. It is a professional army that we are fighting against”, the FARDC officer declared, referring to the fighters within the ranks of the M23.
The DR Congo accuses Rwanda of supporting the M23 and this has been confirmed by United Nations experts and American officials. Rwanda rejects these accusations and on its part accuses the Congolese government of supporting Rwandan rebels of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (DFLR), a group of Hutus who escaped and settled in the DR Congo since the 1994 genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda.
While the Kinshasa authorities hold that the mission of the EAC force in the DR Congo is “purely offensive”, the EAC force commanders say “a military option is not” their priority.
The Kenyan general commanding the EAC force made this clear in a declaration in Goma yesterday Wednesday November 16, 2022.
As the Congolese authorities await with enthusiasm, the military intervention of the EAC force to stop the advance of M23 forces towards Goma and to dislodge them from zones they occupy in the DR Congo, declarations by major-general Nyagah seem to have poured cold water on the expectations of the Kinshasa regime.
“Our first priority is the political process. We have the Luanda process and the Nairobi process. The most important thing to us is peace” Nyagah said while welcoming a new group of sixty Kenyan soldiers in Goma yesterday in the presence of the FARDC assistant chief of staff, Major-General Jerome Shiko Tshitambwe.
This stand contradicts all recent declarations by the Congolese authorities who placed so much hope on the EAC force.
In an interview last October ending, President Felix Tshisekedi told the BBC that he was counting on the regional force to push the M23 out of Bunagana.
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