Kenyan President William Ruto said Monday that East African troops would “enforce peace” in eastern DR Congo, which is in a grip of an offensive by the M23 armed group.
Kenyan troops, deployed as part of an East African Community (EAC) force, recently arrived in the volatile region.
The regional force will “enforce peace on those who are hellbent on creating instability,” Ruto said during a news conference in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital Kinshasa.
The largely Congolese Tutsi M23 militia has seized swathes of territory across in the DRC’s North Kivu province and edged towards the region’s main city of Goma.
The fighting has also reignited regional tensions, with the DRC accusing its much smaller neighbor Rwanda of backing the M23, something that UN experts and US officials have also pointed to in recent months.
Kigali denies supporting the M23, while accusing Kinshasa of colluding with the FDLR, a former Rwandan Hutu rebel group established in the DRC after the 1994 genocide of mainly Tutsis in Rwanda.
The M23 first leapt to prominence 10 years ago when it captured Goma in 2012, before being driven out and going to ground.
But it re-emerged late last year, claiming the DRC had failed to honor a pledge to integrate its fighters into the army, among other grievances.
Kenya is also sending about 900 troops to the DRC as part of a joint EAC force created to help restore security, with the first batch of soldiers arriving last week.
In Kinshasa, Ruto said he was aware that there are already peacekeeping forces present in eastern DRC — alluding to the thousands-strong United Nations force — but suggested that East African troops would be more forceful.
“From what see in the region, we do not think there is much peace to keep,” he said.