A Kenyan soldier serving in the East Africa’s regional force stationed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has tragically lost his life during clashes between M23 rebels and pro-government armed groups, according to a reliable source within the force. This incident occurred amidst ongoing territorial disputes in North Kivu province, where the M23 rebels have gained control over substantial areas since 2021, despite the presence of peacekeeping troops.
The East African Community force, which has been actively deployed in the region since late last year, has faced significant criticism from Kinshasa for its perceived failure to effectively curtail the violence. The conflict has escalated in recent times, particularly in Goma, the capital of North Kivu, with confrontations between the M23 rebels, the Congolese army, and pro-government “wazalendo” fighters.
The source from the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) informed AFP that the M23 engaged in combat with the wazalendo group, utilizing mortar bombs. Unfortunately, a stray bomb landed near Kenyan soldiers entrusted with the protection of civilians, resulting in the injury of one soldier. Regrettably, the soldier succumbed to his injuries while receiving specialized medical care in Goma.
Dismissing reports of an ambush on the Kenyan soldiers, the source clarified that no armed group had deliberately targeted the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) since their deployment. The fighting on Tuesday came perilously close to Goma, with the army deploying a fighter aircraft to counter the rebels.
Late on Tuesday, the Congolese army announced the death of an EACRF soldier, attributing it to the M23 rebels without disclosing his nationality. Independent United Nations experts, the Kinshasa government, and several Western nations, including the United States and France, have accused Rwanda of supporting the Tutsi-led M23, an allegation vehemently denied by Kigali.
Comprising soldiers from Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, and South Sudan, the East African force was dispatched to the region in November 2022.