The East African Community (EAC) Chiefs of Defence Forces/Staff Wednesday adopted an exit plan of the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) from eastern DRC.
The security chiefs convened an extraordinary meeting in Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania on Wednesday to address the modalities of the exit following the DRC’s decision not to extend the current mandate, set to expire today.
The CDF/S meeting upheld DRC’s decision and recommended to the EAC Defence Ministers that EACRF officially ceases its operations in Eastern DRC, with effect from December 8, 2023.
Further, Troop Contributing Countries are to commence the withdrawal of forces from Eastern DRC in line with the adopted exit plan.
Kenya has already withdrawn 300 personnel with South Sudan expected to withdraw 287 troops by the end of Friday the deadline of the stay.
Subsequently, the remaining EACRF troops, including Uganda and Burundi contingents, will continue their withdrawal and backloading of equipment by air and road respectively, from December 8, 2023 to January 7, 2024.
The last component to leave will be the EACRF Headquarters.
The meeting raised concerns regarding the ongoing clashes in the Joint Operation Area where EACRF troops are deployed and urged the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC), M23 and other armed groups to cease hostilities in order to allow the peace processes to continue their mission of finding a lasting solution to the security challenges.
As EACRF prepare to exit from Eastern DRC, the government of DRC has assured the contingents of their commitment to ensure the force enjoys security and necessary assistance during movement to respective transit locations, Goma International Airport and through border posts.
The East African Community (EAC) first deployed troops in the violence-plagued region in November last year after the resurgence of the M23 rebel group.
At the time, the Congolese authorities invited the EAC to deploy its forces to free the areas conquered by the rebels.
But the future of the deployment was thrown into doubt after DR Congo President Felix Thisekedi accused the force of cohabiting with the rebels rather than forcing them to lay down arms.
And following an EAC summit on November 25, the East African Community announced that the DRC “would not renew the mandate of the regional force beyond December 8 2023”.
The Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) Gen Francis Ogolla visited the troops on Saturday December 2 and commended them for achieving significant milestones since their deployment in the Eastern DRC.
He called on the troops to remain unified and vigilant, as the EACRF mission enters a transition phase following the non-renewal of the EACRF mandate by the host nation beyond December 8, 2023, and the planned deployment of the South African Development Community (SADC) troops.
The CDF’s visit comes at a time when the security situation in Eastern DRC is uncertain following breach of the ceasefire.
He said the troops had met its mandate for the period they were there.
Edward Wanyonyi, Researcher – Narratives of Conflict & Peacebuilding in Horn, East and Central Africa says the move is going to be a challenge for the Congolese society to mount a settlement of long-term conflicts because there has been no involvement of locals in the peacebuilding capacity.
He said the current government is not seen among many in the area as representing all sectors.
“With the elections coming up It will be very tricky to say the withdrawal will guarantee peace. This is where the challenge lies because there is no demonstration from the Congolese government that at the moment they have the capacity to intervene and provide peace to the communities,” he said.
“The role of the East Africa Standby Force was to be an arbiter but the force is embroiled at the structural level.
There are also incidents of interference from other countries interested in minerals which complicates the situation on the ground.”Email your news TIPS to Editor@kahawatungu.com or WhatsApp +254707482874