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EAC Heads of States order deployment of Regional Force to DRC

President Uhuru Kenyatta when he chaired an EAC Heads of States Summit at State House Nairobi. [PSCU, Standard]

The East African Heads of States have okayed the deployment of a regional force to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In a meeting held at State House Nairobi, the heads of states instructed the newly-constituted East African Community Force to deploy immediately and in cooperation with the military and administrative forces of the DRC to stabilise and secure the peace in the country.

A press dispatch said the decision was made after they received a Concept of Operation (Conops) brief by the Chief of Defence Forces of Kenya, General Robert Kibochi, in his capacity as the Chairman of the Committee of East African Community Chiefs of Defence Forces.

“The Heads of State accepted and adopted the concept of operation, Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), Rules of Engagement (ROE) and other legal and technical regulations to facilitate the operationalisation of the Regional Force and its various operational arms,” read part of the communique.

 It said the document had been adopted for immediate implementation.

The standby force shall be deployed to the Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu provinces immediately ‘’to stabilise the zone and enforce peace in support of the DRC security forces and in close coordination with MONUSCO, the United Nations peacekeepers.

The mandate of the regional force which will be constituted as an East African Community Force under the EAC Protocol on Peace and Security and the EAC Treaty Article 124 on regional peace and security and Article 125 on cooperation in defence, will be the implementation of the disarmament and demobilisation plan.

The assembly chaired by President Uhuru Kenyatta further ordered an immediate ceasefire be enforced and cessation of hostilities commence immediately, including withdrawal from recently taken positions.

In doing so, the political process should be intensified by all parties in order to allow the citizens of the DRC to feel safe and secure and be able to pick up and continue their respective social, cultural and economic activities, said the communique.

“The assembly agreed and reinforced that trust and confidence-building, cessation of hostilities, unconditional ceasefire, participation in the political processes in the country, prioritisation and participation in the country’s development, citizenship, presence of foreign negative elements, fate of combatants during reintegration and status of refugees and internally displaced persons are among critical issues that require concerted, urgent and durable resolution,” read the dispatch.

It emphasised that all offensive language, hate speech, threats of genocide and politically-inciting language must cease and must be discouraged by all parties and that the people of the DRC must be encouraged to work together in order to stabilise the eastern part of the country for it to prosper.

The third East African Community Heads of State Assembly on the situation in the DRC came in the wake of mounting tension between Kinshasa and Kigali. The two countries have recently been engaging in a series of accusations.

Kenya has been trying to broker direct peace talks between the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo and rebels who have seized parts of eastern Congo and review the implementation of the 2013 Nairobi Declaration.

The M23 rebels declared a unilateral ceasefire on April 1 saying they were seeking dialogue with the government.

President Yoweri Museveni and his Burundian counterpart, Evariste Ndayishimiye have openly engaged on the issue, warmly welcoming President Uhuru Kenyatta’s recent declaration on the security situation in eastern DRC. Both of them are expected to attend the conclave meeting.

Even though Rwanda’s Kagame name is mentioned in the rising tensions between Kinshasa and Kigali, Kagame, who was present at the summit, has not publicly spoken on the issue.

The Kinshasa government in a statement released on June 17, 2022, said it did not want Rwanda in a possible regional force on its soil.

On his part, President Tshisekedi called on international leaders to ‘’support the DRC and pressure the Rwandan authorities to end all violence towards Congo.”

Tshisekedi said the effort should include the recalling of military troops which have invaded the eastern territory of Congo causing deaths, displacement and war crimes.

Tshisekedi is possibly capitalising on the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting to be hosted in Kigali by President Kagame, where British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson will be in attendance.

Tshisekedi told his security council last week that Kinshasa expects London to condemn the invasion and pressure Kigali to withdraw its troops from DRC.

‘’Given the UK’s recent $150 million immigration deal struck with Rwanda, we hope that Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be able to leverage his influence,’’ said Tshisekedi.

Kinshasa suspended all agreements with Rwanda, which it accuses of funding, abetting and sympathising with the M23 rebels.

On its end, Kigali has stuck to its previous position that rejects any accusation and in turn accuses DRC of supporting the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

The Rwandese Foreign Minister, Vincent Biruta told Jeune Afrique, a French-language Pan-African news magazine, that Rwanda had not attacked the DRC, so they cannot be at war with them.

‘’Our territory has been bombed three times by the Congolese army and we did not respond to these attacks, while we were entitled to respond. We have made this known to regional mechanisms and we have told the leaders of the DRC several times,’’ said Biruta

The March 23 movement (M23), a predominantly Tutsi rebellion defeated in 2013 by the Congolese army and the peacekeepers of the UN Mission, took up arms at the end of 2021, accusing the Congolese authorities of not respecting an agreement for the demobilization and reintegration of its fighters.