East African Community extends mandate of its force in DRC
Burundi on Wednesday hosted the 21st extraordinary summit of the East African Community (EAC). Several heads of state and ministers were present to discuss the security situation in eastern DRC, but also to study a possible extension of the East African force deployed in the area, in particular to fight against the M23 rebellion. Kinshasa has repeatedly questioned its actions and asked for an assessment to be made before any extension. In the end, a compromise was reached.
Congolese soldiers from the East African Community (EAC) regional force greet Burundian troops in Goma, March 5, 2023. © Alexis Huguet / AFP
Text by: RFI Follow
Member states finally extended the mandate of the East African force until September 8, in part to consolidate the gains made on the ground, the statement said.
During this 21st extraordinary summit in @jumuiya, the Heads of State and Government also discussed the integration of Somalia into the East African Community and the analysis of the evolution of the security situation in eastern #RDC pic.twitter.com/vxjUxwOXwt
— Ntare Rushatsi House (@NtareHouse) May 31, 2023
In addition, by 15 June, the EAC secretariat will be required to establish a team consisting of one brigadier general from each contingent in the field to assess the implementation of the force's mandate. A report must be submitted within 90 days. Kinshasa demanded that the force's action be audited. The DRC believes that some contingents were not "offensive" enough towards the M23, or even had established a kind of collaboration with the rebels, thus violating their original mandate.
A mandate extended, but reevaluated: a compromise that satisfies Giscard Kusema, deputy director of communication at the Congolese presidency. "The voice of the DRC has been heard, the presidents insist on the obligation of results and especially on the respect of the mandate granted to the sub-regional force. It is a stay that has been granted. We want a much more offensive mandate. This force will have to really activate and give results for which it had been invited.»
Contingents from Uganda and Kenya were particularly targeted by Congolese criticism. No wonder, then, that Kenyan President William Ruto welcomes the expansion of the mission. "There is a full deployment of force, a ceasefire for two months, a gradual return of civilians. With this agreement, the challenges that Congo has been facing for 20 years are being resolved. Much remains to be done, but what has been achieved in six months shows that there is an opportunity for peace and stability.»
A withdrawal of the M23 from the areas it controls and the cantonment of its elements has been planned for a long time, but on the ground the situation is blocked. The Bujumbura summit therefore tried to revive the process. The Member States thus ask the staffs and partners, such as the UN, to ensure within 3 weeks that the town of Rumangabo, in North Kivu has the capacity to host a pre-cantonment site.
Finally, in view of the tensions surrounding this issue, it was decided to appoint a civilian head of mission to coordinate all political issues within the force.
>> READ ALSO: In China, Felix Tshisekedi once again questions the East African force deployed in the DRC
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