Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has said that the 1,000-strong peacekeeping force sent by Uganda will help stabilize the restive eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The contingent, under the auspices of the East African Community Regional Force, will stabilize the Rutshuru-Goma area in North Kivu province, where the March 23 Movement (M23) rebel group has been operating against the Congolese government, said Museveni in a statement late Thursday.
“Our initial mission, therefore, is to occupy some of the positions that the M23 has handed over to the East African Force as a neutral force,” Museveni said in the statement. “We are therefore going to the Bunagana-Rutshuru area, not in order to fight the M23, but to act as a neutral force as the Congolese use the time to sort out their political problems.”
The Ugandan military on Wednesday sent 1,000 troops on a regional peacekeeping mission in eastern DRC.
The deployment followed the decision endorsed and adopted by regional leaders at the third East African Community Heads of State Conclave on Peace and Security in eastern DRC held in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, in June.
“Unless we are attacked, we are not there to fight,” Museveni said. “Fighting may come later if one of the non-state armed groups does not accept peace on what we all regard as reasonable conditions.”
“The East African Authority (the Head of State) would, then, have to mandate us to fight if one of the stakeholders refuses to implement the peace agreement we have agreed on,” he said.
Ugandan troops joined Kenyan, Burundian and Angolan counterparts on the ground to bring lasting peace to the eastern DRC.
Uganda has other troops in eastern DRC in a joint military operation with the Congolese army against the Allied Democratic Forces rebels.