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Why Kenyan troops are joining the battle

Why Kenyan troops are joining the battle

Kenyan army

Kenya has one of the strongest armies in East Africa

More than 100,000 people have fled their homes and dozens have been killed after fighting resumed between Congolese soldiers and the M23 rebel group, in one of the world’s longest and deadliest conflicts. Now Kenyan forces are joining the battle to support the Congolese army, aiming to bring peace to the mineral-rich country which is being fought over by many different armed groups.

Short gray presentation line

Short gray presentation line

What is the fight about?

Conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo erupted three decades ago and has claimed more than six million lives and forced 4.5 million people from their homes.

Over the past year, violence has risen again as security forces battle more than 100 armed groups in the east of the country, despite the presence of a large United Nations peacekeeping operation.

The M23 and the Congolese army have blamed each other for sparking the clashes that led to the current crisis.

The intensity of the escalation was such that President Félix Tshisekedi issued a call to arms on Thursday. He urged the country’s youth to “organize into vigilante groups” to support the army.

The effects of the conflict are not limited to DR Congo, but are also deteriorating diplomatic relations between Rwanda and DR Congo, which accuses its neighbor of supporting M23 rebels and even expelled the Rwandan ambassador last week. Rwanda denies the allegations

The M23, formed a decade ago, claims to defend the interests of ethnic Tutsis living in DR Congo against Hutu militias.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame came to power at the head of a rebel Tutsi army fighting Hutu extremists who massacred hundreds of thousands of Tutsis in the 1994 genocide. Many of these leaders later fled to DR Congo after Mr. Kagame’s forces have taken over in Rwanda, taking the conflict across the border with them.

In a bid to ease the latest crisis, East African Community (EAC) leaders have agreed to send a force to quell fighting in eastern DR Congo, just months later. that this country has joined the regional grouping.

How many soldiers will go to DR Congo?

There is no precise figure on the number of soldiers who will be deployed. What we know so far is that only four countries – Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan and Burundi – are sending their troops.

A thousand Kenyan soldiers will join their Burundian counterparts who arrived in DR Congo in early August for the joint mission against the rebels. It is unclear whether Tanzania will deploy troops.

Military officials declined to reveal the number of troops involved, citing security and strategic reasons.

Burundian soldiers are currently based in Luberezi near Bukavu in South Kivu. The Kenyan contingent will be stationed near Goma in North Kivu and will command the East African Community Regional Force.

Rwanda is also a member of the EAC but it was agreed that it should not contribute to the regional force.



What difference will the East African force make?

M23 rebels have taken over several towns in eastern DR Congo and gained ground in recent weeks, but they are not the only group the East African force will fight in the three most troubled provinces – North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri.

The different contingents will each have distinct missions. The Kenyan soldiers will focus on the rebels in the North Kivu region where some of their counterparts are already embedded in the UN force.

Ugandan troops will pursue the Allied Democratic Forces which are linked to the Islamic State in North Kivu and Ituri, and have organized attacks in Uganda.

Burundian troops will concentrate in South Kivu, where they will face Tabara’s militia. South Sudanese forces will fight remnants of the Lord’s Resistance Army.

How is the East African force different from the UN mission?

The role of the East African regional force is clearly defined as targeting armed groups.

The UN has had a peacekeeping mission in DR Congo since 2000 and was previously limited to protecting civilians and supporting Congolese army operations.

However, the UN subsequently approved the creation of a combat force with a mandate to carry out targeted offensive operations to pacify armed groups in the region.

People carrying their belongings

People fled the fighting and headed towards the border area

The intervention brigade is made up of troops from South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi.

Many Congolese are highly critical of the UN mission, known as MONUSCO, accusing its 13,000 troops of failing to protect them from rebels. Earlier this year there were deadly protests against the UN and these have resumed in recent days as the M23 has advanced.

Security analysts say the East African force and Monusco will need to coordinate closely if they are to be effective.

What interests does Kenya have in DR Congo?

Kenya has been instrumental in trying to broker a permanent peace agreement between DR Congo and the rebels.

In July, former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta – who played a key role in DR Congo joining the EAC in March – was appointed to facilitate peace talks and oversee the implementation of a peace agreement reached between the two parties in Nairobi.

Defense and security analysts say DR Congo pressured Mr Kenyatta’s successor, William Ruto, over the peace initiative and deployment of the regional force.

As the most advanced economy in East Africa, Kenya has been keen to advance its commercial relations in the region through trade and investment.

Why is eastern DR Congo so unstable?

Eastern DR Congo is endowed with an extraordinary natural wealth. Minerals have played a key role here during more than three decades of armed conflict.

Many rebel groups financed their occupation of the area by mining minerals such as tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold.

President Tshisekedi says Rwanda wants to destabilize the region because it wants to appropriate its minerals, but Rwanda has denied any role in the DR Congo unrest.

However, he sent troops twice to his much larger neighbor in the 1990s – claiming he was trying to end attacks by Hutu militias based there.

This led to a conflict that eventually drew armies from seven African states.

A report by a UN panel of experts in 2002 found that criminals linked to the security forces of Uganda, Rwanda, Zimbabwe and DR Congo had all benefited from the exploitation of minerals from this country.