The Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) will next week deploy its contingent in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo under the new East African Regional Force, joining regional peers in the ongoing efforts to pacify the war-torn area.
The East African Regional Force (EARF) is an ambitious programme by East African Community leaders aimed at bringing lasting peace to restive eastern DR Congo and requires regional countries to contribute a specific number of fighters.
The regional force will battle the many rebel groups operating in the area if they refuse to lay down their arms and join an ongoing Nairobi peace process.
UPDF spokesperson, Brig-Gen Felix Kulayigye, told The East African that soldiers who will be deployed in DRC under the regional force are in the final touches of readying for it, and are currently completing mentoring sessions before they join their Kenyan counterparts who are already in Goma.
Deploy to Ituri province
“According to the deployment timetable, we are supposed to deploy at the end of November and we shall occupy the Ituri province. However, already, an advance contingent from the UPDF has already reached the force’s headquarters in Goma,” Kulayigye said on Thursday.
Uganda’s deployment in DRC will bring the number of regional countries already deployed there to three, after Burundi and Kenya, whose forces are already on the ground.
So far, only Burundi, Uganda and Kenya have signed the status of force agreement that includes the mission's rules of engagement.
Uganda already has its forces in the eastern DRC that has for a year been fighting the Allied Democratic Force rebels, a Ugandan rebel group with links to ISIL that Kampala accuses of bomb attacks and assassinations on its soil.
The Ugandan army said the deployment under the regional force will not affect the war against the ADF which has been codenamed Operation Shujaa.
“Operation Shujaa is a different operation and it will still continue as planned at the same time as the regional operation and they will not affect each other whatsoever,” Kulayigye said.