Ugandan troops in North Kivu province, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have paid tribute to a Kenyan soldier who was killed by a bomb in Nyiragongo territory last week.
Private Second Class John Ndawo was killed by a bomb fired at the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) base located in Kibumba, Nyiragongo Territory. The base hosts Kenyan troops. This was during heavy fighting between the March 23 Movement and Armed Forces of Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) soldiers and militia coalition under their umbrella Wazalendo (Patriots).
After the incident, the DRC army, through Lieutenant Colonel Ndjike Kaiko Guillaume, the spokesperson for North Kivu province, issued a statement accusing the M23 rebels of initiating the attacks against government army positions by firing bombs, thus violating ceasefire declarations. Lieutenant Colonel Ndjike asserted that the government army only took all necessary measures to defend itself.
But, M23 rebels’ political spokesperson, Lawrence Kanyuka refuted accusations that the M23 was responsible for Ndawo’s death, contending that the mortar bomb that caused the fatality was fired from a FARDC position. Kanyuka also accused FARDC and the militia coalition of using Su-Khoi 25 fighter jets and heavy artillery to conduct indiscriminative raids.
On Monday afternoon, Ugandan troops under the contingent commander, Colonel Michael Walaka Hyeroba converged at their bases in Niongera, Kiwanja, Rutshuru territory where they paid a tribute to the fallen Kenyan troop.
Captain Hassan Ahmed Kato, Ugandan contingent public relations officer described the Kenyan soldier as a committed serving officer who died while on official duty. Kato says that Ndawo will be remembered as a peace-loving officer who was among those who were putting measures to have Eastern DR Congo get back to sanity.
Kato says that flags in all Ugandan positions will fly at half-mast until Ndawo is given a decent burial in his home country. It remains unclear when he will be buried.
Ndawo was the first peacekeeping troop in North Kivu province to be killed as a result of the ongoing fighting.
On October 16, 2023, an unidentified armed group staged an ambush against Ugandan troops also participating in the peacekeeping mission in the region, injuring two soldiers.
The ambush took place 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 this ambush.
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 conducting the ambush as a means to disrupt the peace restoration mission in North Kivu through dialogue.
Troops from Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, and South Sudan were deployed in late 2022 to reclaim positions that were previously held by the M23 rebels after they defeated the FARDC soldiers and to establish a buffer zone to prevent further clashes between M23 rebels and FARDC soldiers, in accordance to East African Community Heads of States summits resolutions.
In March 2022, the M23 rebels, led by Bertrand Bisimwa and General Sultan Makenga, initiated a conflict against the government. The DR Congo government has consistently accused Rwanda of supporting the M23, although both Rwanda and the M23 have strongly denied these allegations. The M23 rebels claim to be fighting against corruption, xenophobia, and discrimination within the leadership of the D.R Congo.