Kenya sends 1st batch of troops to rebel-hit eastern Congo

Kenya Defence Forces

Members of the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) take part in a flag-handover ceremony (PHOTO/AP)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenyan troops deployed under the banner of a regional bloc arrived Saturday in troubled eastern Congo, where government forces are battling a violent rebel group that now controls some territory.

The troops are part of up to 903 Kenyan soldiers who eventually will be sent to eastern Congo, joined by troops from other East African countries.

The chief of Kenya’s defense forces, Gen. Robert Kibochi, saw the soldiers off at the international airport in Nairobi and urged them to be obedient during their mission.

“We are known to follow the law wherever we go. Respect the chiefs of defense where you go,” Kibochi said.

The Kenyan forces will be based in Goma, eastern Congo’s largest city and the capital of North Kivu province, where M23 rebels and Congolese troops clashed heavily on Friday.

Congolese authorities accuse Rwanda of supporting the rebels, which Rwanda denies.

Kenyan President William Ruto described the Congo mission as “necessary and urgent” for regional security.

The East African Community regional force, which heads of state agreed to in June, also will include two battalions from Uganda, two from Burundi and one from South Sudan, led by a Kenyan commander,.

Violence by armed groups in eastern Congo has led to a diplomatic crisis between Congo and Rwanda, with the two neighboring countries accusing each other of backing hostile armed groups

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