EAC troops pull out of DRC as mandate ends

The inaugural Kenyan Contingent troops under the East African Community Regional Force deployed to the Democratic Republic of Congo. [Courtesy, KDF]

The East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) has completed its withdrawal from the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) after the expiry of its mandate.

The EACRF commander, Major General Aphaxard Kiugu, said in a statement on December 21 that the DRC government had declined to extend the mandate of the regional force, which was deployed to restore peace and security in the conflict-ridden region.

“The decision by DRC not to extend the mandate of the EAC Regional Force beyond December 8, 2023, was noted during the 23rd Ordinary Summit of the EAC Heads of State held on November 24, 2023, in Arusha, the United Republic of Tanzania. A subsequent EAC Chiefs of Defence Forces/Staff meeting approved EACRF’s Exit Plan and authorized Contingents to redeploy their troops together with Country Owned Equipment back to their home countries,” Major Gen Kiugu stated.

The EACRF was a multinational force comprising troops drawn from Burundi, Kenya, South Sudan, and Uganda. It was authorized by the EAC Heads of State to deliver on peace, security, and stability aspirations in Eastern DRC amidst the ongoing conflict.

The regional force was tasked with jointly planning and conducting operations with the DRC’s national army (FARDC) in the joint area of operation to defeat the armed group elements, maintain law and order, and support humanitarian agencies.

The mandate of the EACRF was initially six months, but it was extended twice, first to September 8, 2023, and then to December 8, 2023, after which the DRC government decided not to renew it further.

The regional force was deployed in phases, with the Kenyan Contingent being the first on November 2, 2022, followed by Burundi on March 22, Uganda on April 2, 2023, and South Sudan on April 2, 2023.

The deployment of the EACRF enabled the substantial withdrawal of the March 23 Movement, a rebel group, to locations as earlier designated, thus allowing the EACRF’s posture in the Joint Operation Area.

Major Gen Kiugu urged the international community to continue providing support to the DRC as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) takes over.

“I call upon all actors (regional and international) to continue supporting the ongoing and future interventions geared towards finding lasting peace and stability in Eastern DRC. We wish them every success as North Kivu prepares to usher in the Southern African Development Community Mission in DRC (SAMIDRC),” he added.

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