Ugandan troops pay tribute to Kenyan soldier killed in North Kivu

Ugandan troops pay tribute to Kenyan soldier killed in North Kivu

Kivu, DR Congo  | URN | Ugandan troops stationed in North Kivu province, in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), have paid their respects to a Kenyan soldier who tragically lost his life due to a bomb explosion in Nyiragongo territory last week.

Private Second Class John Ndawo met his untimely end when a bomb was fired at the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) base situated in Kibumba, Nyiragongo Territory. This base was home to Kenyan troops and became the battleground during fierce clashes between the March 23 Movement and the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC), as well as a coalition of militias operating under the banner of Wazalendo (Patriots).

Following the incident, Lieutenant Colonel Ndjike Kaiko Guillaume, the spokesperson for North Kivu province representing the DRC army, issued a statement, accusing the M23 rebels of instigating attacks against government army positions by launching bombs, thereby violating ceasefire agreements. Lieutenant Colonel Ndjike maintained that the government army had merely taken necessary defensive measures.

However, the political spokesperson for the M23 rebels, Lawrence Kanyuka, vehemently denied their involvement in Ndawo’s tragic death. He contended that the mortar bomb causing the fatality had been fired from a FARDC position. Kanyuka also accused FARDC and the militia coalition of employing Su-Khoi 25 fighter jets and heavy artillery in indiscriminate raids.

On a Monday 30, October 2023 afternoon, Ugandan troops, led by Colonel Michael Walaka Hyeroba, the contingent commander, gathered at their bases in Niongera, Kiwanja, Rutshuru territory, to pay their respects to the fallen Kenyan soldier.

Captain Hassan Ahmed Kato, the Ugandan contingent’s public relations officer, described Ndawo as a dedicated officer who lost his life while performing his official duties. Kato emphasized that Ndawo would be remembered as a peace-loving officer who had contributed to efforts aimed at restoring stability in Eastern DR Congo.

Kato further stated that flags at all Ugandan positions would be flown at half-mast until Ndawo receives a proper burial in his home country, though the exact date of the burial remains uncertain.

Ndawo’s tragic passing marks the first casualty among peacekeeping troops in North Kivu province amid the ongoing conflict.

In a separate incident on October 16, 2023, an unidentified armed group ambushed Ugandan troops participating in the peacekeeping mission in the region, injuring two soldiers. The ambush occurred at Rukoro-Buari along the Rutshuru-Bunagana road in Rutshuru territory, as the troops from the logistics department were en route to the Uganda-DR Congo border at Bunagana for resupply.

Despite the attack, the troops effectively retaliated and continued their journey to Bunagana. No group claimed responsibility for the ambush.

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M23 rebels, through their political spokesperson Lawrence Kanyuka, released a statement condemning the attack against Ugandan troops and accused the DRC and the Militia Coalition of staging the ambush to disrupt the peace restoration mission in North Kivu, which was being pursued through dialogue.

The deployment of troops from Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, and South Sudan in late 2022 aimed to retake positions previously held by M23 rebels after their defeat of FARDC soldiers and to establish a buffer zone to prevent further clashes between M23 rebels and FARDC soldiers, in line with resolutions from East African Community Heads of States summits.

The conflict, initiated by the M23 rebels in March 2022, has seen accusations from the DR Congo government regarding Rwanda’s support for the M23, a claim that both Rwanda and the M23 vehemently deny. The M23 rebels assert that they are fighting against corruption, xenophobia, and discrimination within the leadership of the DR Congo.