By Spy Uganda
The Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) on Wednesday, March 29, moved to deploy another contingent to eastern DR Congo, as part of the East African Community regional force.
In a tweet on Wednesday morning, UPDF spokesperson Brig Gen Felix Kulayigye said the contingent was preparing to be flagged off to join the regional force mandated with restoring peace and security in the east of DR Congo.
He posted images of UPDF officers boarding trucks in Bunagana, a town located at the border with DR Congo.
Since its deployment in November 2022, the regional force took control of positions vacated by the M23 rebels as par the Luanda agreement signed by regional leaders in the Angolan capital later that month.
The Ugandan army earlier said it will send 1,000 troops to the joint EAC mission. South Sudan, too, said it would send 750 soldiers.
Under a bilateral mechanism with Kinshasa, Uganda already has troops in DR Congo’s Ituri province, where they fight ADF, a Ugandan militia responsible for various human rights abuses.
Happening now at Bunagana border post as Uganda Contingent of the East African Community Regional Force prepare to be flagged off to join their counterparts in Eastern DRC. pic.twitter.com/YbnvROiV2G
— Defence Spokesperson (@UPDFspokespersn) March 29, 2023
On March 22, Burundian troops took over control of areas of Karuba, Mushaki, Kirolirwe and part of Kitchanga that were vacated by the M23 rebels, a development the regional force called “a significant milestone.”
Kenyan troops occupy areas, such as Kibumba and the Rumangabo military base, which the rebels gave up in December 2022 and January 2023, respectively.
The regional force also said the M23 will continue its withdrawal from positions in Sake, Karuba, Mushaki, Neenero, Kirolirwe, Kibirizi and Mweso in compliance with the decision of the EAC summit of Heads of State in Addis Ababa.
On March 11, Angola also announced plans to deploy a contingent “to secure the cantonment areas of the M23 elements and to protect the members of the Ad Hoc Verification Mechanism,” under a bilateral arrangement with Kinshasa.
Angola’s President Joao Lourenço is a mediator in the DR Congo crisis, under the Luanda Process.
Despite its gains in persuading the M23 to withdraw, the regional force faces pressure from Congolese politicians and civil society to launch an offensive against the M23 rebels.
However, as per the Luanda roadmap, the military solution will be the last option.
Faced with an M23 offensive, in May 2022, the Congolese army formed an alliance with multiple militia groups, including the FDLR, a UN-sanctioned terrorist group formed by perpetrators of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
Earlier in March, a Congolese minister said the government would integrate militias into the army. Analysts say the atmosphere in Kinshasa and Goma could be an obstacle to the regional efforts to end the conflict peacefully.