EAC Boss Says Peace Restoration in Eastern DRC on Course

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The secretary general of the East African Community (EAC), Peter Mathuki, reiterated yesterday that peace restoration in eastern DR Congo was on course.

He told journalists across the region through a video link that he was optimistic that all the warring parties in the decades-old conflict would reconcile.

He denied that the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF), which was deployed in the troubled region late last year, had failed its duties.

“The situation is not as it was before the troops were sent there”, he said, noting that he was looking for a cessation of hostilities in a few months’ time.

He added that the EARCF has the support and blessings of the partner states in the bloc and should not be seen as an illegitimate force.

“Its mission is to ensure that peace is restored in the DRC”, he said, noting that the EAC has put in place two strategies—political and military—to ensure that the situation returns to normal in the EAC’s largest nation.

On the political front, the EAC appointed former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta as the facilitator. He is tasked with engaging all actors in the search for peace.

The military track has seen the deployment of troops under the EARF, with troops from four of the seven partner states: Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, and Burundi.

Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya have gone further than that; they have contributed funds for the peace process, as have Angola, Senegal, and Gabon.

The African Union (AU) Commission recently remitted $2 million to the DR Congo Peace Fund. The United Nations, European Union, and Sweden have also followed suit.

As the SG was briefing journalists on efforts underway to restore peace in eastern Congo, information filtered in on renewed tension between Rwanda and the DRC and the intervention by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Dr Mathuki insisted that the EAC would pursue diplomacy in addressing the crisis with the involvement of the heads of state to restore peace.

Mr Blinken, the US top diplomat, is reported to have discussed the renewed tensions on the DRC/Rwanda border with President Paul Kagame of Rwanda.

According to the Rwandan media, the two discussed the crisis and the measures that have to be taken to de-escalate the situation.

Blinken also updated Kagame on the recent visit by United States’ Acting Deputy Secretary Victoria Nuland to DR Congo’s capital of Kinshasa to meet President Felix Tshisekedi.

Diplomatic tensions between Kigali and Kinshasa have lasted decades despite diplomatic efforts by various countries and organizations to normalise the ties.

Matters turned worse from last year after the resurgence of M23, a rebel outfit DRC claimed to enjoy the support of Rwanda. The later has repeatedly denied this.

Rwanda has, on the other hand, accused DR Congo of arming a militia group fighting the Kigali regime called FDLR which is also reportedly linked with the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

Since July last year, talks have been held between the two countries, with the mediation of Angola, under what has come to be known as the Luanda Process.

But, despite regional efforts to defuse tensions, the situation has largely remained more or less the same with M23 occupying large swathes of land in the volatile eastern Congo.

But Dr Mathuki maintained yesterday that the EAC would not relent on its quest for everlasting peace in eastern Congo

 “The EAC secretariat has been actively mobilizing resources to support the restoration of peace and security in Eastern DRC, as well as coordinating several high-level engagements of Heads of State, and exhibiting the political commitment in the EAC-Led Nairobi Process,” he said.

At their 21 st Extra-Ordinary Meeting held in Bujumbura, Burundi on 31 st May this year, the Summit of EAC Heads of State, among other things, agreed to the extension of the Status of Forces Agreement for six (6) months from 8 th March to 8 th September, 2023 “in order to consolidate the gains made by the EACRF.”

The Summit further reiterated its call to all parties to de-escalate tensions and to use established regional continental and international mechanisms to resolve any disputes in the implementation of the peace in eastern DRC.

“The journey towards peace and prosperity is ongoing, but with the commitment and cooperation of all parties involved, a brighter future for eastern DRC and the EAC is within reach”, the EAC boss stressed.

He appealed to friendly countries to join Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Senegal, Gabon and Angola in making financial contributions to the EAC Peace Fund.

Source : The Citizen