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It's dangerous but necessary to send our soldiers to DR Congo

Congolese army soldiers and United Nations peacekeepers patrol Oicha, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, July 2021. [AP Photo]

Kenya’s military deployment in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was inescapable due to projected security risks from non-state actors resident in the east of the country bent on merging and expanding their operations in the region.

The consequences of not dealing with the risk is that it would have created grave concerns for Kenya’s national security by affecting the security of the state and the safety of citizens through convergence and spread of terrorism threats.

The insecurity would also have curtailed the advancement of Kenya’s economic interests by affecting the business environment.

The military deployment, coupled with diplomatic processes, are not only expected to dissuade the non-state actors from further negative activities but also augment the doctrine of collective security as enunciated in the EAC Protocol on Peace and Security.

As well, it would create regional influence in furtherance of national interests by reassuring EAC states of solidarity and serve as a warning to non-state actors bent on causing trouble in the country and the region. Kenya therefore took a deterrent strategy to deal with regional risks to Kenya’s interests.

There are two national interests that the deployment would serve. The main one is the maintenance of sovereignty and territorial integrity which is a survival interest. This interest would be advanced by preventing ungoverned spaces from being used by terrorists and other negative forces to organise attacks in Kenya and the region.

Maintenance of regional peace is another interest that the deployment is meant to advance. This is a highly important interest since any insecurity would affect the state and safety of the people, in addition to disrupting regional trade.

The deployment was not in the first instance. It was followed by a flurry of proactive diplomatic activities by Kenya to influence events regionally in order to achieve the national interest. This is due to an understanding that the higher the network of relations within the region, the higher the chances of success of the foreign policy tool so as to avoid being influenced by other states to take actions that may not assist in fulfilment of Kenya’s national interests.

It was effected after an assessment of the foreign policy tools found that the objectives the state wanted to accomplish in furtherance of the national interest would best be accomplished by the military tool through the use of the EAC as an instrument for the mission.

The deployment also followed a cost-benefit analysis which found that the military tool was the most suitable to enable Kenya pursue its regional interests due to the defence forces’ capacity to execute the mission.

This was also amplified by the fact that all regional states have unique national interests that the collaboration of militaries would help to achieve. Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi have concerns over negative forces that have used eastern DRC to attack those states, while South Sudan and Kenya have assessed that the conflict would have negative consequences on their security.

The decision to deploy was therefore not an easy one as the DRC mission is expensive and fraught with dangers, with a possibility of loss of lives. This is especially so if the regional force is forced to conduct interdiction operations, apply force if the non-state actors don’t cease their activities or engage in acts that may threaten the force.

The operational environment may also be affected by change of circumstances and the inevitable reality, including displacement of some players who may have been benefiting from the conflict and who may not accept the peace moves. Kenyans should therefore be prepared for any casualties that may be occasioned as even the best of missions breed undesired consequences.

The involvement of Parliament was critical not only as a legal requirement but also for confirmation that the deployment served a national interest. It was also meant to ensure that the goals set are appropriate and that the military had requisite resources to achieve them.

-Mr Magori is a university lecturer and a national security consultant. [email protected]

Related Topics

KDF DRC EAC