President Ruto flags off KDF troops to depart for Eastern DRC to combat rebels

Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) are gearing up to deploy in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo as part of the East Africa Community Regional Force tasked with combating rebels that have for years caused untold suffering.

President William Ruto on Wednesday handed the Kenyan contingent headed by Colonel Daniel Rotich the national flag at the Embakasi Garrison, Nairobi. The high profile event was also attended by Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, Defence CS Aden Duale and National Security Advisor, Monica Juma.

The President flagged off the contingent after inspecting the equipment to be used by the troops. He took time to pray for the troops to be deployed asking God to grant them favour.

He emphasized the need for peace and tranquility in the region to aid business and commerce saying without peace all potential is differed in perpetuity. “At the bare minimum every society deserves the opportunity to experience peace and safety and every nation desires to guarantee its people the dividends of security and stability,” he added.

While terming the mission as urgent and necessary, Ruto said he has consulted widely speaking to the Secretary Generals of the African Union and the United Nation who gave the nod saying the deployment is important for the region.

The President expressed his support to the troops who are expected to spearhead the regional force. “We are committed to our part in providing resources to equip you to shoulder this solemn responsibility of defending our country and contributing to regional peace and stability,” he said.

In September, KDF began deploying its logistical support systems paving way for the deployment of the troops. The KDF will be the second to deploy after a Burundian contingent that deployed on August 15.

The Kenyan contingent is expected to spearhead the fight against insecurity in North and South Kivu, and Ituri provinces. The troops will be commanded by Lt. Colonel Dennis Obiero.

The troops will enter the DRC by tackling a hot zone near the Ugandan border in Bunagana. The area has been under M23 rebel control since June 14, when the group resumed fighting after a long hiatus.

According to the Chief of Defence Forces, General Robert Kibochi, the mandate of the regional force is to support DRC in humanitarian jobs in areas manifested by armed groups, maintain law and order, and aid in the disarmament of rebel groups.

East Africa Community Regional Force came to life following an agreement struck in June, between the seven EAC member states. Presidents Yoweri Museveni (Uganda), Paul Kagame (Rwanda), Evariste Ndayishimiye (Burundi), Salva Kiir Mayardit (South Sudan), Felix Tshisekedi (Democratic Republic of Congo), and retired President Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya)  made the decision at State House in Nairobi with instructions to the force to deploy immediately.

Kenya, Uganda, and Burundi will have two battalions each South Sundan providing one. Due to a simmering diplomatic dispute in which Kinshasa has accused Kigali of supporting M23 rebels, allegations that Rwanda denies; only Rwanda will not send troops.

The head of Kenya’s Defence Forces and the military staff of the EAC, General Robert Kibochi, presented a draft concept of operations outlining the goals and engagement guidelines for the joint force as well as the resources that would be made available to its commander. The region is to gather between 6,500 and 12,000 soldiers, according to the draught battle plan, with the mission to “contain, defeat, and eradicate negative forces” in the eastern DRC.

In the proposal, the force would operate with a six-month renewable mandate, subject to a strategic review that would be conducted by the parties every two months, and be led by a Kenyan commander with its headquarters in Goma, the capital and commercial centre of North Kivu.

More than 5 million people have been displaced by insecurity and violence in DRC in the last two years, with nearly 2 million displaced in North Kivu province alone, according to UN estimates.​​​​​​​

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