The East African Community heads of state Tuesday resolved to extend the mandate of the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) to stay in the Democratic Republic of Congo for three months.
This follows a meeting between Presidents William Ruto (Kenya), Evariste Nayishimiye (Burundi), Salva Kiir (South Sudan), Paul Kagame (Rwanda) and Samia Suluhu (Tanzania).
The meeting also included Prime Minister Jean Sama (DRC) and the first Deputy Prime Minister of Uganda Rebecca Kadaga.
“The heads of state agreed to extend the duration of the mandate of the EACRF and the status of the forces agreement for a further period of three months as from September 9, 2023, to December 8, 2023, pending an evaluation report from the council of ministers,” a statement from the East African Community reads.
The current mandate of the EACRF was to end on September 8, following an extension that was made on May 31, 2023.
The force is made up of Kenyan, Ugandan, Burundian and South Sudanese soldiers.
Its troops were first deployed in November 2022, in response to an advance by the M23 rebels in the Eastern region of the DRC.
In August, EAC Defence ministers unanimously supported the call to have the EACRF remain focused on its mandate to support DRC in restoring peace.
An Extraordinary Security meeting held in Nairobi also considered the progress of the Regional Force in restoring security.
The ministerial meeting noted that insecurity continues in areas where withdrawal has not been achieved.
The Force had been criticized by the DRC for not targeting armed groups thought to be fueling instability in eastern parts of the country.
EACRF is supposed to be a buffer force to prevent confrontations between armed groups and encourage political dialogue.
The EACRF was supposed to leave DRC in September unless Kinshasa signed an extension of the Status of Force Agreement, a deal between the East African Community and the government of the DRC granting mandate for the forces.
Defence ministers drawn from the East Africa Community last week unanimously supported the call for the forces to remain focused on its mandate to support the DRC in restoring peace.
The ministers noted that insecurity continues in areas where withdrawal has not been achieved, hence exacerbating humanitarian situations.
During the meeting, the EAC Ministers acknowledged that significant progress had been made by the Regional Force towards supporting FARDC in maintenance of law and order, opening up of main supply routes, facilitating access to humanitarian aid, the observance of a ceasefire between warring parties and the return to normalcy in some areas.