By Spy Uganda
A regional summit bringing together the President of DR Congo and his counterparts from Burundi, Kenya and Uganda has agreed to the deployment of a regional force to help contain armed groups holed up in the Congo.
DR Congo President Félix Tshisekedi, Evariste Ndayishimiye (Burundi), Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, as well as Rwanda’s foreign minister Dr Vincent Biruta, who represented President Paul Kagame, reached the decision during a summit in Nairobi on Thursday, April 21.
DR Congo, which hosts one of the largest UN peacekeeping forces (MONUSCO), has long struggled to bring about peace in its eastern regions, where a myriad of local and foreign militia groups have caused havoc for decades.
One of the most notorious is FDLR, a militia formed and led by remnants of the elements that committed the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda in 1994, which claimed more than a million lives. Other negative Rwandan groups based in the Congo include P5 led by Kayumba Nyamwasa and FLN, which is linked to Paul Rusesabagina. The FLN claimed responsibility for the deadly incursions into Rwanda in 2018 and 2019 in which at least nine civilians lost their lives.
The regional summit directed that the establishment of a regional force to fight the negative forces “should commence immediately” under the leadership of the DR Congo, according to a statement.
The leaders also demanded all Congolese armed groups to “participate unconditionally in the political process to resolve their grievances” or face military action.
They also directed that all foreign armed groups in DR Congo must disarm and return unconditionally and immediately to their respective countries of origin or be “considered as negative forces and handled militarily by the region.”
The leaders resolved to meet within one month to evaluate progress made under what is known as the Heads of State conclave. Other than Kenya whose president is the current chair of the East African Community (EAC), the other governments represented at the summit have long complained about security threats posed by Congo-based armed groups that originate from their countries.
It was also agreed that Tshisekedi would chair a “consultative meeting” with representatives of Congolese armed groups in Nairobi on Friday, April 22, with a view to finding a political solution to their grievances. Kenyatta is playing host to the talks.
Meanwhile, the summit agreed to “invite the other leaders of the East African Community to join the conclave and to engage them in future sittings, and to welcome the participation, in an observer status, of a representative of the United Nations secretary-general, and the chairperson of the African Union Commission. Others set to be invited are the secretary-general of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and the EAC secretary-general. The organisations would be invited “as and when called upon to participate by the DR Congo.”
The leaders also agreed to “welcome bilateral interlocutors such as the United States and France in an observer status.”
DR Congo became the seventh member of the EAC on March 29.
Bintou Keita, who heads MONUSCO, told the UN Security Council recently that nearly 2,300 civilian deaths had been recorded in DR Congo’s eastern provinces in the first three months of this year.