Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta in his capacity as the chairman of the East African Community has directed that a regional standby force be immediately deployed in Democratic Republic of Congo to help solve the worsening situation.
“The East African Regional Force shall be deployed to the Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu provinces immediately to stabilize the zone and enforce peace in support of the DRC security forces and in close coordination with MONUSCO. The regional force will work with local provincial authorities to support an orderly and permanent disarmament process under the Programme de Desarmement, Demobilisation, Relevement Communautaire et Stabilisation (P-DDRCS) in order to create enabling conditions towards stability and peace in the eastern DRC,”Kenyatta said in a statement on Wednesday evening.
This week, there was intense fighting between M23 rebels and the Congolese army supported by FDLR group.
The fighting saw M23 rebels capture Bunagana town and is now under its control whereas on the other side, a number of Congolese refugees have fled the country to neighbouring Uganda.
In the statement on Wednesday evening, President Kenyatta said the recent developments including, open hostilities create a serious threat the ongoing political process aimed at addressing the security situation in the area, noting that there is need for an immediate action.
“I, therefore, call for an immediate cessation of all hostilities in the Eastern DRC and for all armed groups, both foreign and local, to lay down arms immediately and unconditionally and to commit to a political process,” Kenyatta said.
“I further call for the declaration of Ituri, North Kivu(Bunagana, Bugusa, most parts of Petit Nord, Masisi, Lubero, Beni- Kasindi main axis) 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 consequently called for the activation of the East African Regional Force under the auspices of the East African Community (EAC) .
To this, Kenyatta said East African Community army commanders will on Sunday, June, 19 meet in Nairobi to finalise preparations for the joint regional force to be deployed in the DRC.
The commanders had earlier this month met in DRC.
The developments come barely two months after the regional leaders met in Nairobi and agreed that a joint regional force be formed to help deal with any military aggression in any of the East African members states which also include new entrant DRC.
The leaders took note of the situation in eastern DRC and of neighbouring countries and agreed to condemn all the armed groups in the region.
They also directed that all armed groups disarm of face joint military action by the region.
“All foreign armed groups in the DRC must disarm and return unconditionally and immediately to their respective countries of origin. That failure to do so these groups would be considered as negative forces and handled militarily by the region,” the leaders directed.
However, whereas the directive was made, it was never respected but rather some of the groups like M23 intensified fighting against the Congolese government.
If it comes to pass, East African regional force will for the first time be deployed in the region.
The development comes a few hours after the East African countries have just completed joint military drills in Jinja, a Ugandan city.