The EAC force deployed to restore peace in the volatile east of the Democratic Republic of Congo may see their mandate extended after troops contributing countries reportedly endorsed an extension of their mandate.
East Africa Community defense ministers unanimously agreed in a security meeting in Nairobi on the weekend, that the forces should stay longer in the region plagued by rebellions.
However, the final decision depends on the government of the DRC, which has to sign the Status of Force extension to grant the troops permission to stay.
The regional force mandate will expire in September 2023, setting the pathway for their departure, unless Kinshasa signs an extension of the Status of Force Agreement with the EAC bloc.
According to The East African, the Extraordinary Security Meeting held in Nairobi was to consider the progress of the Regional Force in DRC to restore security.
The ministers reportedly noted that insecurity continues in areas where withdrawal of rebel forces 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 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.
“We are meeting here as East Africa Ministers of Defence following the resolution from the Heads of States Summit in Bujumbura which gave very clear guidelines and resolutions for the implementations in various parts on the security situation in Eastern DRC,” said Kenya’s Defence Cabinet Secretary Aden Duale, as quoted by The East African.
“We recommended that the government of DRC consider extending the EACRF mandate beyond the September 8th deadline to safeguard the gains made by the Regional Force,” he added.
Burundian Minister of National Defence Alain Tribert, who is also the chair of the EAC Defence Ministers Council, acknowledged the report of the EAC CDFs meeting, which provided recommendations that guided the Ministers’ meeting.
In his opening remarks, Andrea Aguer Ariik Malueth, the Regional Deputy Secretary-General reiterated the EAC Secretariat full commitment to supporting the efforts to restore Peace and Security in the Eastern DRC.
“Despite of EAC Regional Force (EACRF) achievements, we encourage our Force to continue supporting the Government of DRC in humanitarian relief to the population affected by the armed groups’ activities including Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), support in Disarmament, Demobilization, Community Recovery and Stabilization Program (P-DDRCS),” Aguer said.
EACRF was first deployed in November last year and had their mandate extended in March for six months.
However, the Force had been criticized by the DRC for not targeting armed groups thought to be fueling instability in eastern parts of the country.
South Sudan has committed nearly one thousand (1,000) soldiers to the regional operations against rebel insurgencies in the North Kivu Province, in addition to thousands of soldiers contributed by Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi.
On April 28, 2023, the EAC regional force mission was mired with uncertainty after its Kenyan commander Major General Jeff Nyagah resigned.
In his resignation letter, General Nyagah said he was leaving because of concerns for his safety after consistent harassment by forces he described as ‘mercenaries’.
In May 2023, South Sudan’s Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said one battalion of the troops that the country contributed to the East Africa Regional Forces is yet to set foot in DR Congo.
Deng Dau Deng did not go into details why the battalion currently engaged in farming in Western Equatoria State, have not yet made it to the volatile eastern DRC region – nearly a year after they were ceremoniously waved off in Juba.
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