East Africa’s army chiefs agree to ‘urgent’ regional force in DR Congo

East Africa’s army chiefs agree to ‘urgent’ regional force in DR Congo

Current unrest justifies speeding up process of setting up regional force, says army officer

By James Tasamba

KIGALI, Rwanda (AA) – The heads of the defense forces of the member states of the East African Community (EAC) bloc agreed Tuesday on the “urgent” need to deploy a regional force to help end violence by militant groups in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

This was announced at the end of a two-day meeting held in the town of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province.

The meeting aimed to concretize one of the resolutions adopted at a summit of heads of state of the EAC on April 21 in Kenya’s capital Nairobi.

The EAC had appealed to local armed groups in the country to join a political process to address their grievances or “be handled militarily.”

It urged foreign armed groups, including Uganda’s Allied Democratic Forces, to “disarm and return unconditionally and immediately to their respective countries of origin.”

“After assessing the current security situation in eastern DR Congo, the chiefs of defense forces agreed on initial modalities for the urgent deployment of a regional force in the DR Congo,” Sylvain Ekenge, the spokesman for the governor of North Kivu, told reporters without elaborating.

The army chiefs stated that setting up a regional military force would “assist in the restoration of peace and security,” he added.

Earlier while opening the meeting Monday, Celestin Mbala Munsese, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC), said the current security situation in the DR Congo necessitates acceleration of the process of establishing a regional force.

Delegations from Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and the DR Congo, the host country, participated in the meeting. The delegation from Rwanda was reportedly absent.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has accused neighboring Rwanda of backing M23 rebels in renewed fighting in North Kivu province, but Rwanda has denied the charge.

Fighting resumed Monday between the FARDC and M23 rebels in North Kivu province after the rebels launched attacks on military positions in Rutshuru territory in North Kivu, according to the army.

Last Sunday, at least 20 people including eight women and children were killed in an attack attributed to Uganda’s Allied Democratic Forces rebels in Irumu territory in Ituri province.

Roughly 120 rebel groups reportedly continue to operate across large swathes of eastern DR Congo.

More than 27 million people are facing food shortages and nearly 5.5 million have been displaced due to violence in DR Congo, according to the United Nations. ​​​​​​​

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