The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is pouring thousands of new troops in Beni and other areas of North Kivu near the Ugandan border in what a commander said was the beginning of a “protracted offensive” against ISIS-linked Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels.
The deployment comes just a week after Major-General Marcel Mbangu Mashita, the commander of the Operation Sokola 1, which has been battling ADF rebels for the last four years, was replaced with Brigadier General Jacques Nduru.
The commander of the third defense zone, General-Major Sikabwe Fall on Thursday said the arrival of new soldiers was aimed at giving the operation more momentum.
“We are here to fight and stabilize this area. More troops are coming here soon to restore security in this area,” said Sikabwe.
He spoke to soldiers and community leaders at the headquarters of the army at OZACAF, in Bungulu commune, Beni.
Chief of General Staff of the FARDC, Lieutenant-General Célestin Mbala graced the ceremony.
The move by President Felix Tshisekedi is a leap forward in returning sanity to North Kivu which remains a hub of terrorism in the region.
The United States Special Envoy for Africa’s Great Lakes Region (GLR) Dr. Peter Pham recently urged Ugandan armed forces to work with its regional partners to counter the threat posed by the terrorist group.
The rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), which recently joined forces with the international terror group, ISIS, has since stepped up attacks in DRC near the Ugandan border.
This has displaced thousands of families to Uganda and sowed fear in communities the operational areas of the militants.
The opening of several fronts by ADF and its ability to sustain attacks has also fueled speculation the Islamist movement is not only moving away from guerilla warfare but also perfecting conventional war tactics.
Senior Ugandan army officers have previously called for tougher action against ADF which has been holed up in the mountains of Congo since 1995.
“As ADF spreads its wings across Eastern Congo even attacking UN forces there, we need more and more capabilities to monitor and deter them from using our mountain ranges by deploying specialized forces,” said Chief of Defence Forces Gen David Muhoozi while meeting a high ranking French military official late last year.
It remains unclear if DRC will seek Uganda’s support to combat ADF.
However, Sikabwe expressed hope that the “next two-three months” would see peace restored in Beni to foster trade, mobility of persons and economic growth.
Islamic State (ISIS), the world’s most feared terrorist and jihadist group, which wreaked havoc in Libya, Iraq, and Syria, has since recognized ties with ADF.