Peace efforts in the delicate and M23 rebel controlled Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) could be constrained further after it emerged that there are foreign armed groups fighting alongside proscribed outfit.
Yesterday, during the Extra-Ordinary 2oth Summit of the East African Community (EAC) leaders held in Bujumbura, Burundi, the summit ordered the immediate withdrawal of the foreign fighters.
The directive was listed in a communique released at the end of the 20th Extra-Ordinary Summit hosted by Burundi’s President Évariste Ndayishimiye.
“The Heads of State directed withdrawal including all foreign armed groups and directed the Chiefs of Defence Forces to meet within one week and set new timelines for the withdrawal and recommend appropriate deployment matrix,” the communique read in part.
The Heads of State further directed that all ceasefire violations be reported for action.
The Summit also called for the revitalization of dialogue mechanisms and inclusion of all parties.
Yesterday’s call for withdrawal of foreign armed groups followed a sustained onslaught against Rwanda by DRC and a section of international actors over its links to the M23 group.
President Paul Kagame has repeatedly refuted the claims and asserted that Rwanda will not be scapegoated over failures by DRC’s government.
Kigali has also accused DRC of violating its territorial integrity citing multiple incursions into its airspace by jets operated by DRC’s military.
In a latest escalation, three Rwandan military officials were expelled from Goma the capital of North Kivu province in the Eastern DRC.
EAC Secretary-General Peter Mathuki wrote to Kinshasa on February 1 seeking answers on the expulsion of the trio who were part of a regional force.
In a letter addressed to President Félix Tshisekedi, Mathuki termed the expulsion as a matter of concern.
“Your Excellency, you may recall that the deployment of the officers at the East African Community Regional Force Headquarters in Goma to support the Regional Command Centre was a decision of the Heads of State at their meeting on the Peace Process in the Eastern DRC,” he stressed.
EAC approved the deployment of a standby force to DRC early in 2022.
Kenya deployed its troops in November alongside other Partners States including Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan and Tanzania.
The force has been working alongside an EAC-led mediation process facilitated by Kenya’s immediate former President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Under its resolutions yesterday, the EAC Summit commended the Nairobi-led process and expressed gratitude for financial support by Kenya and Tanzania.
The Summit urged DRC to facilitate deployment of troops from South Sudan and Uganda.