The East African Regional Force is preparing to intervene militarily in the Ituri, North Kivu, and South Kivu provinces.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who currently chairs the East African Community (EAC), summoned army commanders in the East African region for a meeting to finalize preparations for deploying a force in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) which has faced decades of war.
The commanders will meet on Sunday in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, which is also working on a political solution in DRC, the latest member of the EAC. The EAC regional bloc brings together Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, and DRC.
The East African Regional Force is preparing to intervene militarily in the Ituri, North Kivu, and South Kivu provinces, outlet The Brief reported.
Before the Sunday meeting, Kenyatta called for an immediate cessation of all hostilities in eastern DRC. He said all armed groups, both foreign and local should lay down arms immediately and unconditionally and to commit to a political process.
"I further call for the declaration of Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu provinces as a weapons-free zone, where any individual or group carrying weapons outside the official and legally deployed and mandated forces in the country will be disarmed," he said.
Uganda, which has troops in DRC fighting the Allied Democratic Forces, an affiliate of the Islamic State in central Africa, took heed of Kenyatta's call and instructed all its troops to hold their positions and wait for further instructions. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, through Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, Commander Land Forces said there should be no troop movement until there is a regional decision.
On Thursday, Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye welcomed the call by Kenyatta saying the move aims at stabilizing eastern DRC for the well-being of all the population of the region.
War isn’t just in Ukraine. As of today 25000+ residents of Bunagana have fled to Uganda as M23 rebels continue their aggressive attacks. Yes, the world only airs what happens in the West but today, let’s talk about the war in DRCongo. #CongoleseLivesMater#EndtheWarInCongo pic.twitter.com/91Aib18Glc— Mayele Degaule Ngemba (@mayele_ngemba) June 15, 2022
Regional leaders met in Nairobi on April 21 and agreed to deploy a regional force in eastern DRC among other measures to promote peace and stability in the mineral-rich country and the greater East African region. The EAC moves to deploy its troops into the restive region where the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO) has also been deployed since 1999.
Currently, there is also a diplomatic clash between Rwanda and DRC, with the latter accusing Rwanda of supporting the M23 rebels who are responsible for the latest fighting that has forced thousands of people to flee to Uganda. Observers say the EAC force is likely to face an uphill task to pacify the vast forested region that has many rebel groups with different interests.
The EAC is handling the Congo crisis with a multi-pronged approach. At the heads of state meeting in Nairobi on April 21, the leaders agreed that all armed groups in the DRC participate unconditionally in the political process to resolve their grievances.
"Failure to do so, all Congolese armed groups would be considered as negative forces and handled militarily by the region," a communique issued at the end of the meeting said.
President Kenyatta as the convener of the Inter-Congolese (DRC) consultations of the Nairobi Process on Wednesday said the political process is backed by the international community including the United Nations and the African Union. He warned that the recent fighting is a threat to regional efforts including the promotion of outcomes of the ongoing consultations between armed groups and the Congolese government.