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"EAC Will Keep DRC Peace" - Ruto

FILE: Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Kenyan soldiers stand guard at the East African Community (EAC) headquarters in Goma, eastern DRC, on November 16, 2022.

Kenyan President William Ruto said Monday that East African troops would "enforce peace" in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which is in a grip of an offensive by the M23 armed group.

The East African Community regional force will "enforce peace on those who are hellbent on creating instability," Ruto said during a news conference in the DRC's capital Kinshasa.

Kenya is also sending about 900 troops to the DRC as part of a joint EAC force created to help restore security, with the first batch of soldiers arriving last week.

Ruto said he was aware that there are already peacekeeping forces present in eastern DRC -- alluding to the thousands-strong United Nations force -- but suggested that East African troops would be more forceful.

E. Africa Troops To 'Enforce Peace' In East DR Congo, Kenya's President
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"From what see in the region, we do not think there is much peace to keep," he said.

The largely DRC Tutsi M23 militia has seized swathes of territory across in the DRC's North Kivu province and edged towards the region's main city of Goma.

M23 spokesperson Lawrence Kanyuka told VOA that the group "has never targeted any civilian populations nor launched any attack in Goma" despite reports over the weekend that it had attacked unarmed civilians in the eastern city.

While M23 thanks Kenya's government for its peace efforts, he said, Congolese and Kenyan officials are already "well aware of the situation" and "what the M23 is calling for."

M23 Political Spokesperson Talks EAC, DRC Ceasefire Dialogue
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The fighting has reignited regional tensions, with the DRC accusing its much smaller neighbor Rwanda of backing the M23, something that U.N. experts and U.S. officials have also pointed to in recent months.

Kigali denies supporting the M23, while accusing Kinshasa of colluding with the FDLR, a former Rwandan Hutu rebel group established in the DRC after the 1994 genocide of mainly Tutsis in Rwanda.

The M23 first leapt to prominence 10 years ago when it captured Goma in 2012, before being driven out and going to ground.

But it re-emerged late last year, claiming the DRC had failed to honor a pledge to integrate its fighters into the army, among other grievances.

VOA's Peter Clottey contributed to this report.