Kenyan soldiers landed in the city of Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Saturday, AFP reporters saw, as part of a regional peacekeeping mission to the troubled region.
Their arrival comes as the M23 rebel group has surged across the DRC’s North Kivu province, capturing swathes of territory and inflaming regional tensions.
This week, Kenya’s parliament approved the deployment of just over 900 troops to the DRC as part of a joint military force from the East African Community (EAC) bloc.
Two planes carrying about 100 Kenyan troops touched down at Goma airport, where they were greeted by local dignitaries, AFP reporters on the scene said.
Over 120 armed groups are active in the DRC’s volatile east, many of which are a legacy of regional wars which flared at the turn of the century.
The M23, a mostly Congolese Tutsi group, first leapt to prominence in 2012, briefly capturing Goma before being driven out.
After lying dormant for years, the group took up arms again in late 2021 claiming Kinshasa had failed to honour a pledge to integrate them into the army, among other grievances.
M23 rebels have won a string of victories against the Congolese army in North Kivu in recent weeks, dramatically increasing the territory under their control.
Their resurgence has cratered relations between the DRC and its smaller neighbour Rwanda, which Kinshasa accuses of backing the M23.
There was heavy fighting between the army and the M23 in Rugari in North Kivu on Friday and power was disrupted in Goma, an important commercial hub of about one million people.
Diplomatic efforts are also underway to ease tensions in eastern DRC. Angolan President Joao Lourenco visited Rwanda on Friday and is due in the DRC on Saturday.
Kenya’s former president Uhuru Kenyatta is also expected in the DRC’s capital for talks on Sunday.