EAC leaders agree on modalities for deploying joint force in DR Congo, Kagame meets Tshisekedi amidst accusations of attacks, Uganda Airlines gets landing rights in China, Rwanda-UK remain undeterred on refugee deal, Uganda gives Kenyan fish passage way through to DR Congo

On Wednesday, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, who currently chairs the East African Community (EAC), called for the immediate deployment of a new regional military force to try to stop rebel violence in the eastern DRC, where dozens of armed groups have been active for more than two decades.

The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) said Friday that it welcomes the deployment of a new regional military force led by the East African Community (EAC) to enforce peace in the provinces targeted by the rebels of the March 23 Movement (M23), according to a statement by the DRC’s Ministry of Communication.

Since late March, M23 has been on the offensive in DRC’s northeastern North Kivu province, with thousands of civilians displaced by still ongoing fighting. Bunagana, a key strategic town bordering Uganda, reportedly fell into the hands of rebels on Monday.

Besides the haunting nightmare of the M23, Kinshasa now faces a diplomatic tug of war with Kigali, with the latter having been accused of supporting the M23 rebels. In early June, DRC President Felix Tshisekedi publicly claimed that there was “no doubt” that Rwanda was backing the M23 on the Congolese territory.

Rwanda has denied the charge and instead accused the Congolese army of allying itself with Rwandan rebels of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), active in eastern DRC, whose elements are blamed for the 1994 genocide against Tutsi.

On Monday, 20th June 2022, His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya, convened in Nairobi, a Septet Summit and 3rd Conclave of the East African Community (EAC) Heads of State on the peace and security situation in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The Summit was attended by His Excellency Yoweri Museveni, President of the Republic of Uganda; His Excellency Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda; His Excellency Salva Kiir Mayardit, President of the Republic of South Sudan; His Excellency Felix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and His Excellency Evariste Ndayishimiye, President of the Republic of Burundi. The Head of State of the United Republic of Tanzania was represented by H.E. Amb. Dr. John Steven Simbachawene, High Commissioner of Tanzania to Kenya. 

The Heads of State deliberated on the security situation in the eastern DRC and on measures to promote peace, stability and development in the eastern DRC and the greater East African region. 

By the time of filing this story, the heads of state had agreed on modalities for deploying the regional force, having listened to a military brief from the Committee of East African Community Chiefs of Defence Forces. 

A Joint Communique released Monday evening indicates that the Heads of State were particularly interested in committing to contribute to reconciliation and lasting peace and finding a swift and lasting solution to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, particularly in the North and South Kivu as well as Ituri Provinces. “They appreciated the supremacy of the Constitution of the DRC and committed to maintain a unified and secure country, with coherence and credible institutions of central government exercising full territorial authority and recognizing that peaceful means are the best way to resolve conflicts,” reads the Communique in part.  

Uganda’s official carrier, Uganda Airlines has received landing rights at Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport located in southern China, the national carrier announced last Saturday. “Ni Hao #Guangzhou! A toast to yet another great milestone! Uganda Airlines has been granted landing rights to China! Cheers to a new world of greater connectivity,” the airline tweeted.

This is the first-ever direct flight from Uganda to China in the post-Covid-19 era and according to the airline this “brings an amazing opportunity to tap into this gap. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, there were more than 25,000 passengers from China to Uganda, according to 2019 travel data.”

The Airline officials told journalists that direct flights will benefit the business community given the national carrier will handle both passengers and cargo.

Meanwhile South Sudan’s Minister for Water and Irrigation Peter Manawa Gatkuoth died in the Egyptian capital Cairo on Sunday morning. The death was announced by his political party chairman Dr Riek Machar confirmed.

Gatkouth was appointed during the formation of the revitalised coalition government in March 2020. Reports indicate died of high blood pressure in an unnamed hospital in Cairo, Egypt.

News of his death first surfaced on social media on Sunday morning and was later confirmed by South Sudan’s First Vice President Machar in a press statement, describing the late minister as a youth leader to the core during the then Sudan’s civil liberation war to date.

News last week was dominated by an agreement between Rwanda and the UK that has become a controversial migrant deal. Following the signing, pressure mounted when the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), the final court of appeal for countries that signed the Convention on Human Rights, stopped the first flight of migrants from the UK that was scheduled for June 14.

The court’s decision came late in the evening of June 14, after the local courts in London said the flight could go ahead pending a judicial review of the policy scheduled for the end of July.

It is said that both governments had anticipated legal challenges with the policy but said they remain “undeterred”. 

The UK’s conservative government has defended the policy claiming it will “save countless lives” from human trafficking, and Rwanda maintains that it is offering a humanitarian solution.

Officials from the Government of Kenya and officials from the Uganda’s Ministry of Agriculture, last week converged at the Busia Border Custom Centre to sign a framework that provides for free transit of fish from Kenya to Congo. In a joint statement signed by the Ministry Permanent Secretary and his Kenyan counterpart, Dr. Francis Owino, the two governments agreed to facilitate transportation of Fish from Lake Turkana, through Uganda to Congo without interference.

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