The Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) launched a peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s troubled North Kivu province on Wednesday.
Lt Gen Kayanja Muhanga, Commander of Land Forces, flagged off the soldiers who will cross into DR Congo via the Bunagana border in Kisoro District.
“In contrast to the Shujaa Operation on the other side of DR Congo, where we directly attack the enemy, the mission here is to observe a process of achieving peace in Rutshuru territory and neighbouring areas in the DR Congo’s North Kivu province.” “We are deploying approximately 5,000 soldiers,” said Lt Gen Muhanga.
North Kivu is at peace.
He went on to say that they are not going to Congo to fight any particular group, but to carry out the decisions of the East African heads of state on restoring peace in North Kivu.
Mr Abel Bizimana, the chairperson of Kisoro District, expressed his delight that the UPDF soldiers had finally been flagged off to witness a peace process in the troubled Democratic Republic of the Congo.
He also stated that his district has already set aside approximately 620 acres of public land in Kabaya for the UPDF to plan the peacekeeping mission.
“We are hopeful that the construction and tarmacking of the Bunagana-Goma road will resume now that the UPDF has arrived to pacify the area.” “We also anticipate a resurgence of cross-border business in the area,” Mr Bizimana said.
According to Kisoro Resident District Commissioner Shafiq Ssekandi, an average of 120 Congolese refugees cross into Kisoro each day.
“While over 70,000 Congolese refugees entered Kisoro from March to December last year, only about 4,800 have entered since January.” “Daily, we receive an average of 120 Congolese refugees crossing into Uganda through the Bunagana border,” Mr Ssekandi said.
Col Michael Walaka Hyeroba, commander of the UPDF contingent that was flagged off to DR Congo, reminded the soldiers of their responsibilities, particularly observing discipline and the rules of engagement.
“To ensure the success of our mission, we are appealing to residents in both countries.” “Our forces are well-trained and ready for the mission,” said Col Hyeroba.