EAC Force steers clear of political mud in the restive region

By The EastAfrican

The East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) in eastern Congo is swatting incessant calls to fire its first shot against rebels as frustration grows among Congolese civilians who cite the slow progress to bring lasting peace in the restive region.

But leaders of the EAC, whose member states are contributing troops to the regional force, say they are still prioritising non-military action.

Police in Goma have lately been busy thwarting protests against the alleged “passivity” of the EACRF against rebels accused of committing violence.

EAC Secretary General Peter Mathuki, speaking on the sidelines of an African Union event in Nairobi on Thursday, said the bloc would not relent on peaceful means of resolving the Congo crisis, but added that it could realistically mature between six to 12 months.

Sudanese forces

The Congolese have also protested the arrival of the South Sudanese army as part of EACRF.  A 750 battalion of South Sudan People’s Defence Forces arrived in December, making it the fourth country to deploy after Uganda, Kenya and Burundi.

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“We are urging all citizens to remain calm and be patient as all of us see how to bring the conflict to an end. Our intention is not to engage in combat or have our region at war, but to see how we all live in peace,” Dr Mathuki told journalists.

“The process in Eastern DRC has to be solved through political processes; our military are there to reinforce the political process.”

He didn’t clarify whether the force would issue a new deadline to the M23, having missed the January 15 one to leave all occupied areas as outlined in the Luanda Mini Summit communiqué, by regional leaders last November.

Next course of action

Former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, the facilitator of the Nairobi Peace Process for DRC, and Maj-Gen Jeff Nyagah, the commander of EACRF, engaged in a weeklong consultative meeting in Mombasa to discuss the next course of action, leaving military action as the last resort.

“The next step is continuing to push for all the stakeholders… to come to the table for discussions. Already, we have had three conclaves and we are going to have the fourth one and what I can assure you is in six and 12 months we are going to achieve peace in Eastern DRC,” said Mathuki.

“I feel comfortable that there’s progress being made to ensure peace and security in Eastern DRC,” he said.

Maj-Gen Nyagah said:“The first priority is the political process including the Luanda and Nairobi processes. Sometimes war does not necessarily bring peace. There is disarmament and demobilisation. Only if both options fail can we move to an offensive and military option. It’s not just focusing on the M23. We have over 120 armed groups here.”

By Mary Wambui and Patrick Ilunga

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