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Uhuru Kenyatta to host regional Heads of State summit

President Uhuru Kenyatta and President Felix Antoine Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo during the Signing Ceremony of Treaty of Accession by the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the East African Community at State House, Nairobi on April 08, 2022. [PSCU, Standard]

President Uhuru Kenyatta is tomorrow expected to host regional leaders at State House, Nairobi.

The summit will focus on the peace and security situation in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

The third East African Community Heads of State assembly on the situation in the DRC comes at a time there is rising tensions between Kinshasa and Kigali. The two countries have recently been engaging in a series of accusations.

A government statement indicates the top of the agenda during tomorrow’s meeting will be the deployment of the force meant to help restore peace and security in the eastern part of the country and reviewing of the regional military chiefs' report.

Regional commanders of the respective Defense forces met in Nairobi today to finalize preparations to undertake the deployment of an East African force.

Uhuru in his capacity as the Chairperson of the East African Community on Wednesday called for urgent activation of the regional force to help quell the violence in the mineral-rich region.

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

State House, Nairobi hasn’t yet confirmed the number and names of the Presidents that will attend although sources say Rwandan President, Paul Kagame will not be part of it.

According to the diplomatic source, Kigali’s excuse will most likely be that the ‘’President is busy preparing for the commonwealth Heads of Government meeting’’.

Tomorrow's gathering will be a crucial one and is expected to test the unity and strength of the East African Community since a final decision on the deployment of a force that will ‘’directly and aggressively’’ pursue the rebels will be made.

Though the Nairobi process on the security situation in DRC majorly involved Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo- the second assembly meeting held on April 21, 2022, resolved that other leaders from the community will be invited for future engagements.

It is however not yet clear if Tanzania’s Samia Suluhu and her South Sudanese counterpart Salva Kiir who were left out during the first and second assembly meetings will be present.

Tanzania has actively been involved in the process if the attendance of their outgoing military Chief, General Venance Mabeyo during the regional commanders of the respective defense forces meets is anything to go by.

Juba, which pundits argue has been ‘’non-committal’’ on the process probably due to emerging issues in the youngest country in the region continues to sit on the periphery as things unfold.

South Sudan did not participate in the Goma military chiefs meeting citing ‘’logistical challenges’’. They still did not send a military representative today during the Nairobi military engagement and issue on whether they will contribute boots or not remains unknown.

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 the rising tensions between DRC and Rwanda and the ongoing accusations directly mentions President Paul Kagame, he has remained mum and has not publicly spoken on the issue.

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

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

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

The president is capitalizing 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 the Congolese 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 sympathizing with the M23 rebels.

On their side, Kigali is stuck to its previous position that rejects any accusation and in turn accuses DRC of relying on 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.