The Ministry of Defense and Veteran Affairs on Monday sent an additional 300 troops as part of the East African Community Regional Force to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (EACRF-DRC) to join a peacekeeping mission there.
Speaking to journalists at the Juba International Airport before the departure of the troops, Deng Dau Deng Malek, the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said the country is concerned about regional peace and stability and decided to contribute more troops to the regional peace efforts in Eastern DRC.
“Today we want to inform the world that South Sudan is much concerned about the regional peace and stability and the objective of this force is to go and to help our brothers in Eastern DRC,” Dau said.
The troops are being transported by the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) as part of their logistical support to the peacekeeping mission following a pledge by Kenyan President William Ruto.
According to Dau, the 300 additional troops will be based in Goma at the headquarters of the EACRF-DRC with support from South Sudan`s peacekeeping base in northern Dunga.
For his part, General Chol Thon Balok, the minister of Defense and Veteran Affairs, said the forces have been well-trained and expressed optimism that they will accomplish the mission.
“There are people who have a misconception that South Sudan’s forces are sometimes not disciplined but I want to prove them wrong today that our forces are well organized, well trained, and well oriented,” he said. “I do not doubt that they are going to accomplish the mission.”
Meanwhile, Grephas Ogutu, the Charge de Affaires at the Kenya Embassy in South Sudan, said his country’s logistical support to South Sudan came as a result of a meeting between Kenyan President William Ruto and Salva Kiir during the former’s visit to Juba last year.
“Today we are here as a country and also as a neighbour to South Sudan to facilitate the movement of the South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF) that is going to the EACRF-DRC,” he said.
In late December last year, South Sudan trained and passed out a more than 700-strong battalion to go and join the EACRF-DRC.
Since March last year, the M23 rebel group has been on an offensive in DRC’s northeastern province of North Kivu displacing thousands from towns and villages and cutting off major trade routes to Uganda and Rwanda.
Kenya’s former President, Uhuru Kenyatta, last June called for the immediate deployment of a new regional military force to stop rebel violence in Eastern DRC where dozens of armed groups have been active for over two decades.