South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit has flagged off a battalion of 750 soldiers to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
In June, leaders of the East African Community (EAC) resolved to send a joint force to deal with multiple armed groups in Congo after the country joined the bloc in April as the seventh member state.
The resurgence of the M23 rebel group in May this year prompted regional and international efforts to bring an end to the decades-long insecurity in eastern Congo.
Speaking during the graduation and farewell to the troops at the military headquarters in Juba on Wednesday, President Kiir urged the troops to be disciplined and avoid involvement in criminal activities in Congo.
“I want you to maintain discipline there. There are forces that go for a peacekeeping mission in another country and cause problems; they go and rape women and girls. Don’t do it, don’t take anything from shops or civilians; that is not what you have gone for instead, protect the lives of the civilians from danger,” Kiir said.
“I am telling you one simple thing, after leaving this ground, go and follow the military order. What is taking you to Congo this afternoon is what brought people here, now there is something called UNMISS, there is something called UNISFA and many others,” he added.
Kiir, who is also the commander chief of the military, advised the peacekeeping force to portray a good image of South Sudan, which has been shattered by years of devastating conflict.
“Our war that happened here opened the doors for insults, so I want you to go and close that door by your deeds. Another thing I want to tell you, you are going as a national army, not as a tribal army or party army; you are a national army. We need to work for the image of this country,” Kiir said.
Meanwhile, Minister for Defense and Veteran Affairs Angelina Teny said South Sudan is proud to participate in the first-ever peacekeeping force, noting that the country is moving in the right direction in transforming the army.
“You know we have a UN peacekeeping mission in our country. If we move this way, we implement the agreement according to all the articles, especially chapter two; we work on the transformation of the army and now have a force that is going contribute; the whole world is watching this. So this is a positive move towards us being part of global peace and security,” she said.
The minister revealed that the troops would be sent immediately as the rest of the east African countries have already sent their forces to DRC.
First Lieutenant Aman Ibrahim Khafi, one of the soldiers, said: “I am very happy today to go for this mission and lift the flag of South high as the President earlier gave it to my force commander.”
Meanwhile. Col. Johnson Malual, the regional force commander, promised that they will work diligently to fulfil the mission.
“I am very proud to get this opportunity to get my orders from His Excellency the President of South Sudan, Gen Salva Kiir Mayardit, who has handed over the flag to me. We promise to keep this flag rising inside South Sudan and in Congo, and we promise that we will fulfil the mission in the name of South Sudan in DRC and the East Africa Community,” he concluded.