Bukavu – Burundian troops began deploying on Monday in troubled eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to help enforce a peace initiative backed by a seven-nation regional bloc, the DRC’s military said.
“The Burundi defence forces contingent officially entered DRC (today)… under the forces pooling framework put forward by the heads of state of the EAC,” East African Community, said Lieutenant Marc Elongo, army spokes[erson in South Kivu province.
The contingent, comprising “a large number of soldiers”, is under the command of the DRC forces and currently stationed at a training facility in the Uvira area, he told AFP.
The Burundians and their DRC counterparts “are tasked with hunting down all foreign and local armed groups in order to restore peace” in eastern Congo, he said.
South Kivu’s head of military operations, General Ramazani Fundi, urged the public “to be calm and work honestly with loyalist forces in order to put an end to this activity by irregular forces”, said Elongo.
In June, EAC leaders decided to set up a regional force that would work with the DRC’s army to quell armed groups roaming the east of the country.
An estimated 120 armed groups are active in the mineral-rich region, many of them a legacy of wars that flared in the final years of the 20th century.
Regional force criticised
The idea of a regional force has run into criticism within DRC.
Opponents point to past chapters of meddling in the east by neighbours, and instead are clamouring for reforms and funding for the national armed forces.
Critics include 2018 Nobel Peace co-laureate Denis Mukwege, a gynaecologist and surgeon who has treated thousands of women victims of rape in the conflict region.
The EAC comprises Burundi, the DRC, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.
Separately, the army said Monday it had killed 10 members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), one of the most notorious armed groups in the region, and captured six others, including two child soldiers.
The operation was carried out on Sunday in the Boga and Mitego areas of Irumu territory in Ituri province, provincial army spokesman Jules Ngongo told AFP.
The two children, both aged under 10, were of Congolese and Ugandan nationality, he added.
The ADF – which the Islamic State group claims as its Central African offshoot – has been accused of slaughtering thousands of Congolese civilians and carrying out bomb attacks in neighbouring Uganda.
In November last year, Ugandan troops joined DRC’s army in a bid to crush the ADF, but the attacks have continued.
Five bodies of “civilians killed by the ADF” were found on Sunday near the Mutuweyi River in Mambasa territory, local youth leader Vincent Telamboli said.
On August 5, 15 civilians and an army captain were killed in the Ituri villages of Bandiboli and Kandoyi.
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