Chiefs of defence forces from the East African Community (EAC) on Wednesday, August 23, met in Kenya’s capital Nairobi to discuss the security situation in eastern DR Congo.
The extraordinary meeting took place as the mandate of the EAC regional force deployed to DR Congo’s troubled eastern region is due to expire on September 8.
Among those in attendance were Lt-Gen Mubarakh Muganga, the Chief of Defence Staff of Rwanda Defence Staff, and Maj Gen Alphaxard Kiugu, the commander of the EAC regional force.
However, it remains unclear if the army chiefs discussed the mandate of the regional force.
The regional force was deployed to eastern DR Congo in November 2022 to support peaceful efforts, especially to observe the withdrawal of the M23 rebels in North Kivu province.
The force comprising troops from Burundi, Kenya, South Sudan, and Uganda has since taken control of the positions vacated by the M23.
However, it has been criticised by the DR Congo government for not launching an offensive against the rebels, even as the mandate says the military means would be used in the case the rebels refused to withdraw.
President Felix Tshisekedi also threatened to expel the EAC force if their results were deemed unsatisfactory by September.
At the request of the Congolese government, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) approved a military mission to eastern DR Congo to help restore peace and security ahead of the general elections in December.
The SADC countries resolved to send troops in September.
Eastern DR Congo has been unstable for nearly 30 years and it remains home to more than 30 local and foreign armed groups accused of atrocities and various human rights abuses.
One of the groups is the FDLR, a blacklisted militia which was founded by elements linked to the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. The FDLR is also accused of spreading genocide ideology in eastern DR Congo, especially targeting Tutsi communities.
Multiple interventions, including the United Nations peacekeeping mission in DR Congo (MONUSCO), have failed to end decades of violence.
The UN’s Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said recently in a report to the organization’s Security Council that MONUSCO was in the process of withdrawing from eastern DR Congo.