President Uhuru Kenyatta has been appointed by the East African Community as facilitator of peace talks in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The announcement was made today during the 22nd Ordinary Summit of EAC Heads of state in Arusha, Tanzania.
The Kenyan leader, who handed over the chairmanship of the community to his Burundian counterpart Evariste Ndayishimiye, will oversee the implementation of the Nairobi process aimed at restoring peace.
‘’I emphasise that the priority should be to promote peace and stability in the DRC; and it is only fair to do this with the help of the very person who initiated the whole process, President Uhuru Kenyatta,’’ said President Evariste Ndayishimiye of Burundi.
On 20 June, the head of state in his capacity as the chairperson of the East African Community ordered for the immediate deployment of a regional force to try to stop rebel violence in eastern DRC.
Though the seven countries of the regional bloc, which Congo joined this year, agreed to set up a joint force- and deploy immediately, there are no boots on the ground.
But the Standard can independently report that a survey mission was undertaken in Ituri on July 15 by military officers drawn from the member states, and was led by the newly promoted Major-General Mungai Nyaga of the Kenya Defense Forces.
Major-General Nyaga was promoted from a brigadier and consecutively appointed the regional force commander by President Uhuru this week.
The force is expected to face off with several armed militants and M23 rebels who have intensified attacks on civilians in the last few months, killing tens and displacing thousands.
But however noble President Uhuru’s deployment proposal, there are jitters in the mineral-rich country and not everyone agrees with the regional leader’s decision of sending boots to stabilise the violence torn region.
The proposal evoked mixed reactions from the political class and civil society.
The Congolese parliament deputy, Lubaya Claudel said the decision by Uhuru to deploy a force was a ‘’violation of their sovereignty and a denial of their existence as a free nation,’’.
In a tweet Lubaya said the move was ‘unacceptable’.
Dr. Dennis Mukwege, a renowned Congolese gynecologist and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 for reconstructive surgery on women and children raped in the never-ending conflict argued the force would not bring any stability but risked at escalating the crisis.
Though Kenya will command the force, Nairobi has remained mum on the technical details of the force.
And putting in mind this is a military operation bringing together six member states excluding Rwanda which is unwanted by the Kinshasa-led government, key questions arising seek to answer;
The size of the force
Number of boots each country will contribute
The duration of the standby force in the DRC
On the financing of the force, details emerging is that the European Union (EU) was approached for funding but the economic and political union is yet to agree.
Kinshasa continues to accuse the Kagame-led government of funding, abetting and sympathizing with the M23 rebel movement.
During the Heads of state summit in Arusha today, both President Felix Tshisekedi of DRC and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame were missing. The two were represented by their country’s respective prime ministers.
With the military solution set to be initiated by the East African Community, the International Conference on the great Lakes Region (ICGLR) under the auspices of the Angolan President Joao Lourenco has initiated a political resolve between DRC and Rwanda and end the animosity between the two neighbors.
Regional and security analysts however argue that boots on the ground not backed by political concessions will just be a band-aid solution.
Thus, the military option must be supported by dialogue-and the actors involved especially politicians must abandon their hardline stances for peace to prevail.