Allow no one to stoke fire in DRC from Nairobi

KDF Chief of Defence Forces Gen Francis Ogolla welcomes KDF Contingent soldiers from DRC Congo peace mission at Embakasi Garrison in Nairobi on December 20, 2023. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

An unexpected announcement by a Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) political exile, has sparked a row between Nairobi and Kinshasa.

Former DRC electoral commission president Corneille Nangaa ruffled feathers last week when he declared in Nairobi the creation of Congo River Alliance, a coalition that includes the M23 rebel group that took arms against the government in 2021 and that has been accused of massacre and rape.

President Felix Tshisekedi's government reacted to the move by summoning to Nairobi Nyakeru John Nyakeru and its ambassador to the East African Community Jean Pierre Masala to “provide explanations" over the launch.

It is unlikely Kenya has anything to do with the launch of the alliance. As President William Ruto pointed out, the government doesn't (regularly) monitor what people say during press conferences.

If anything, Kenya's stand in the DRC conflict is well known. President Uhuru Kenyatta, who has strongly condemned the formation of the new alliance, is the facilitator of the East African Community-led Nairobi Peace process on Congo. On top of that, Kenyan troops have been part of the East African Community peacekeeping force in the Eastern DRC. From whichever angle you look at it, therefore, Kenya's main interest in the DRC is peace—to bring to an end the conflict in eastern DRC that has led to the deaths of approximately six million peace since 1996.

For that reason, the government must not allow anyone to use the Kenyan soil to add oil to the flames of violence in the DRC. The important question is whether the Congo River Alliance, which is said to include nine rebel groups, seeks to bring change through peaceful means or war.

If they want to do it through peaceful means, they should be encouraged. But if they seek to bring change through the barrel of the gun, Kenya must strongly reprimand Nangaa and his acolytes. They should be advised to look for alternative grounds to launch their nefarious scheme. Even in the name of democratic freedom, Kenya must not allow anyone to go against its wishes in DRC. That would be akin to helping to water down its efforts in DRC.