Head of regional force tackling east Congo violence resigns, Kenya denies
GOMA (Reuters) -The Kenyan commander of a regional force set up to tackle militia violence in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo said he had resigned due to obstruction and threats to his safety, adding to doubts over whether the mission can be effective.
In the letter dated Thursday, Major General Jeff Nyagah said he was quitting due to an "aggravated threat" to his safety and a "systematic plan" to frustrate the force's efforts.
Diplomatic and Congolese government sources confirmed the letter's authenticity.
However, Kenya Defence Forces said on Friday that Nyagah had not resigned, saying the letter written by him was fake, but that he had in fact been appointed to a domestic command role.
The seven countries of the East African Community (EAC) set up the EACRF military force last April to try to end bloodshed linked to decades of militant activity in Congo's east.
But its mandate expired last month and EAC leaders have expressed differing views on how it should operate, with Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi demanding a more aggressive stance than the peacekeeping mandate proposed by others.
In the letter, Nyagah alleged foreign military contractors were sent to survey his residence in January, placing monitoring devices that forced him to relocate.
A spokesman for Congo's army said in a statement that Nyagah was not the target of any surveillance and his safety was never threatened. He added that the contractors were military instructors legally hired by the Congo to train its troops.
Nyagah said in the letter he was the target of orchestrated "negative media campaigns" that accused the EACRF of being soft on the M23 rebel group, which launched an offensive in east Congo last year.
He also mentioned a push by Congo's government to rotate the commander role every three months.
"My security as the Force Commander is not guaranteed," Nyagah said. "The ongoing frustration has rendered my mission untenable."
An EAC spokesperson did not comment on the allegations.
Congo has been openly critical of the EACRF since the start of the year, accusing it of failing to rein in the M23, and the renewal of its mandate is still under discussion.
(Reporting by Sonia Rolley, Paul Lorgerie, Djaffar SabitiAdditional reporting by George Obulutsa in Nairobi; Writing by Sofia ChristensenEditing by Bhargav Acharya, John Stonestreet, Jonathan Oatis and Frances Kerry)