DR Congo’s deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, Christophe Lutundula, has said the East African Community regional force sent to the country’s conflict-ridden east failed to deliver “expected results,” signalling that it might have to exit by the end of June.
Speaking at a press conference on Saturday, May 13, in the capital Kinshasa, Lutundula said the EAC troops failed to engage the M23 rebels militarily.
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“It’s simple, they [EAC troops] have not delivered the expected results,” said Lutundula. “I’m speaking plainly. It is as clear as water in a clear glass. Otherwise, we would no longer be talking about the M23. It doesn’t require any particular demonstration.”
The EAC regional force was deployed in November 2022, with a mandate of supporting a peace process that would see the M23 withdraw. The regional force comprising troops from Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, and South Sudan has secured some positions vacated by the rebels in their gradual withdrawal.
According to a peace deal signed on November 23 in Luanda, the capital of Angola, the regional force would use force against the rebels if they refused to withdraw and the offensive mandate would be authorised by the heads of state.
But Kinshasa maintained that the EAC force’s mandate was ‘unequivocally offensive,’ which led to disagreements throughout more than five months the force has been in eastern DR Congo.
Lutundula’s comments came after President Felix Tshisekedi said on May 9 in Botswana that the EAC regional force would have to leave the Congolese territory in June.
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Tshisekedi said it after the Southern African Development Community (SADC) approved the deployment of a joint force to eastern DR Congo to combat militias ahead of national elections later in 2023.
“The EAC troops, who came to restore security in eastern DRC, failed. SADC is to send troops pending the fixing of the modalities by June 15,” Lutundula, adding that EAC force’s mandate expires in June.
EAC Secretary General weighs in
The EAC Secretary General, Peter Mathuki, has said that Kinshasa’s opinion about the regional force is “not fair.”
“To say that the regional force does nothing, in such a short time, is not fair,” Mathuki was quoted by French radio RFI as saying.
Eastern DR Congo is home to more than 120 foreign and local armed groups, which are responsible for various atrocities.
Multiple interventions, including one of the United Nations’ largest peacekeeping missions (MONUSCO), have failed to end decades of violence in the country.