More Burundian troops arrive in eastern DR Congo

Thursday March 16 2023
Burundian military personnel arrive at Goma airport

Burundian military personnel arrive at Goma airport in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on March 5, 2023. More Burundian troops arrived on March 15 and 16. PHOTO | ALEXIS HUGUET | AFP


Burundian troops under the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) have arrived at their base near Goma, buttressing the bloc’s military mission in eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The forces which began deploying on Wednesday had arrived in batches at the Goma International Airport in North Kivu, joining other compatriots who had arrived earlier last week.

The EACRF had confirmed on Wednesday it had completed a reconnaissance mission to lay the ground for Burundians, who become the second troop contributor under the EACRF to fully deploy their forces. Kenya had deployed from November and Uganda and South Sudan are expected to move in too.

According to sources at the East African Community, the Burundian soldiers who landed in Goma are waiting to be deployed to Kirolirwe and Kitchanga in order to "enhance free movement of persons and goods along the roads and protect locals".

The troops will cover Kitchanga which has been in the hands of the M23 since January.

Congolese deputy commander of the East African force Maj-Gen Emmanuel Kaputa told had told the troops coming from Bujumbura that their mission is to "participate in the unconditional withdrawal of the M23".


Protests in Goma

There have been protests in Goma over what locals say is the passivity of the regional troops. They want the troops to engage the armed rebel groups in the region, sentiments which have been echoed by Congolese some leaders.

"The East African Regional Force is slow to exercise the offensive mandate in support of the Congolese armed forces for which it (EACRF) was deployed," said Christophe Mboso, speaker of the National Assembly, on Wednesday at the opening of the parliamentary session.

Mr Mboso added that EACRF "offers a picture of troops on holiday in the Congolese theatre of operations". He expressed concern that the "presence of EACRF troops on Congolese territory is becoming unnecessarily expensive".

In eastern DRC, the war continues between the M23 rebels and the Congolese army. Numerous ceasefires decreed by heads of state in the region have all failed.

In Kinshasa, officials say that the DRC "is committed to dialogue, but does not intend to engage in dialogue if the rebels do not withdraw from conquered positions".