By Spy Uganda Correspondent
The East African Community peacekeeping force will leave eastern Democratic Republic of Congo after December 8, but the bloc will remain involved in the quest for peace in troubled region, the heads of state have said.
A dispatch after the 23rd Heads of State Summit held in Arusha on Friday confirmed that Kinshasa will not extend the term of the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF), although they haven’t quelled the conflict yet. Their mission is to be taken over by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) forces.
Nonetheless, the East African leaders have expressed their commitment to remain part and parcel of the efforts to restore calm in the eastern part of the country, if not for any other reason but for the stability and shared prosperity of the region.
While handing over the leadership of the bloc to South Sudan’s Salva Kiir, Burundi President Evariste Ndayishimiye said the continued fighting in DRC poses significant risks for the region, especially for the countries that neighbour it.
“The fluid security situation in eastern DRC has been a source of unease, particularly for the five EAC partner states that share borders with DRC, not only due to the concentration of the groups that may destabilize our partner states, but also the humanitarian consequence which caused a spillover of displaced persons across the borders,” he said.
President Ndayishimiye credited the full deployment of the EACRF with the semblance of peace in the troubled regions of DRC, but acknowledged that “there has also been a challenge which requires give-and-take for the peace to hold.”
Evidently, the stay of the EACRF troops has neither benefited the residents of the troubled regions nor the government, with persistent citizen protests, demanding for the exit of the peacekeepers.
Bad blood has also developed between Presidents Felix Tshisekedi of DRC and Paul Kagame of Rwanda, with the former constantly a pointing finger at Kigali for allegedly supporting the rebels causing chaos in the east.
Last month, the ceasefire between the rebels and government forces, brokered by Kenya’s former President Uhuru Kenyatta through the Nairobi process last year, was violated and the conflict has returned to initial levels.
President Ndayishimiye said the region must do all possible to bring an end to the war. “”
Ostensibly, this “appropriate mechanism” will involve a meeting between the EAC chiefs of defence forces and their counterparts from SADC, which the heads of state ordered to happen before December 8, when EACRF is supposed to leave DRC.
Peter Mathuki, EAC secretary general, said the summit agreed the CDFs will “submit their recommendations on the way forward to the defense ministers for onwards transmission to the summit for consideration.”