Uganda has flagged off 1,000 Ugandan troops to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC] under the regional East African Community [EAC] force.
The troops were flagged off on Wednesday by Uganda people’s defence forces [or UPDF] commander for Land Forces, Lieutenant General Kayanja Muhanga at a function held at Bunagana border post located between Uganda and DRC.
Hundreds of residents from both sides of the border attended the flag off ceremony.
The deputy spokesperson of UPDF, Deo Akiki said the Ugandan army contingent of 1,000 troops will be operating from Ituri province.
Burundi and Kenya have already sent their troops to DRC for the same mission.
Uganda’s contingent is led by colonel Michael Hairoba.
“We are going as ambassadors of peace in Congo. We are prepared, we are trained and are ready for the task,” Hairoba said.
Lieutenant General Muhanga said the Ugandan army is not new at keeping peace in other countries.
“Having pacified the country, UPDF now exports peace in other countries. We were in Liberia, we are in Somalia, We have been in South Sudan and the Central African Republic,” Muhanga said.
“This force has a mission to witness the process of achieving peace in eastern DRC. Our work is to ensure implementation of the decisions taken by the heads of state. We are not going to be enemies of anybody there.”
Tensions with Rwanda
Fighting in eastern DRC has been simmering for decades as more than 120 groups fight for power, land and valuable mineral resources — while others try to defend their communities.
But it spiked in late 2021 when M23, which was largely dormant for nearly a decade, resurfaced and started capturing territory.
Since its reemergence in late 2021, the rebel group has occupied key towns in North Kivu province.
The fighting has heightened tensions between Rwanda and the neighbouring DRC government.
Kinshasa accuses Kigali of backing the rebel group, a charge Rwanda consistently denies.
Independent UN experts, the United States and several other Western nations have also concluded that the M23 is backed by Rwanda, though Kigali denies the accusation.
Since last year, fighting between the M23 rebel group and government forces has displaced more than 600,000 people.
A ceasefire demanded by African leaders in the Angolan capital of Luanda last November was flouted within days.
A new timetable adopted by East African leaders last month gave all armed groups up to March 30 to withdraw from occupied areas.