EAC Regional Force Officials, M23 Meet as UPDF Troops Cross to North Kivu

The East African Community (EAC) Regional Force officials have been locked in a series of high-profile meetings with the leadership of the M23 rebels at the Bunagana border as Uganda People Defense Forces (UPDF) troops made final preparations to cross to North Kivu Province.

A brigade of 5,000 Ugandan troops under the EAC regional Force was on Wednesday evening flagged off to cross for a peace mission in Rutshuru territory, an area which is entirely under conquest by the M23.

The deployment is in accordance with recommendations by the mini-summit of Heads of State held in Angola’s capital, Luanda on November 25, 2022, and the  Directives of the 20th Extra-Ordinary Summit of Heads of State held on February 4 2023 in Bujumbura, Burundi.

The first closed-door meeting happened at around 3 p.m. on the Ugandan side of the border amidst very tight security.  The meeting was chaired by Major General Jeff Nyaggah, the EAC Regional Force overall commander, and his deputy Brigadier General Emmanuel Kaputa who also represented the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo FARDC.

Officials of M23 leadership were led by Major Willy Ngoma.

Ugandan military officials were led by General Wilson Mbasu Mbadi, the UPDF Chief of Defense Forces, and Lieutenant General Kayanja Muhanga, the Land Forces Commander. After about 30 minutes, Mbaddi and Muhanga came out and drove back to Kampala.

Earlier, Lt Gen Kayanja Muhanga has seen the flag off of the UPDF East African Force contingent that is now in DRC territory.

Speaking on behalf of the Chief of Defence Forces, General Mbadi, the Commander Land Force Lt Gen Kayanja Muhanga said that the move into DRC marks another chapter in the many peacekeeping operations that UPDF has been involved in.

“Having pacified the country, UPDF now exports peace in other countries. We were in Liberia at one time, we are in Somalia, been to South Sudan, Central African Republic. We are also in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo fighting the Allied Democratic Forces terrorists which we are doing very well and fulfilling our objectives,” said Lt Gen Muhanga.

Nyaggah told journalists that the meeting was aimed at ensuring that the deployment of Ugandan troops was done smoothly. He added that in the last two weeks, there have been no cease-fire violations between M23 rebels and FARDC, indicating that something developmental towards peace restoration is being done.

M23 launched a war against the DR Congo government in March 2023. DR Congo’s government accuses Rwanda of backing M23, but Rwanda and M23 strongly deny it.  Rebels claim to fight against bad leadership in DR Congo based on corruption, xenophobia, and discrimination.

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