Goma – Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) soldiers marched in the eastern city of Goma on Tuesday, an AFP journalist said, in a bid to reassure locals unsettled at perceived inaction against M23 rebels.
The march comes a day after violent protests in Goma against the East African Community’s military force, which deployed late last year to pacify the turbulent region.
There is mounting frustration among some Congolese people over what they view as an unwillingness of EAC troops to fight the M23, which has seized swathes of territory in North Kivu province and come within miles of its capital Goma.
Congolese troops marched through the city of over one million people on Tuesday, where shops remained closed after protesters blockaded streets and looted businesses the previous day.
Lieutenant-Colonel Guillaume Ndjike, a military spokesman, told reporters that the aim was to “reassure the population” that the army was there and prepared for any eventuality.
Goma in eastern DRC has seen a 2nd day of protests with demonstrators bringing the city to a standstill. They accuse the UN and a regional force set up last year of failing to support the Congolese army in its battle against M23 rebels
— Paul Bakibinga (@PabloBach) February 7, 2023
M23 rebels re-emerged from dormancy in late 2021, claiming that the Democratic Republic of Congo had ignored a pledge to integrate them into the army.
The Tutsi-led group subsequently won a series of victories against the army and occupied chunks of territory in North Kivu, including much of the region north of Goma.
Last month, it captured the town of Kitchanga, west of Goma. There are now fears that the rebels will move to encircle the city, which lies on the Rwandan border.
Leaders of the seven-nation EAC decided to create a military force to respond to the insurgency last year, with the first troops arriving in the region in November.
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Kenyan President William Ruto said at the time that the troops would “enforce peace on those who are hellbent on creating instability”.
EAC forces have yet to enter combat despite the continuing M23 advance.
The DRC accuses its smaller central African neighbour Rwanda of backing the M23, a charge that Rwanda denies.
UN experts, the United States and several western states agree with the DRC, however.
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