For peace to reign in eastern DRC, East African leaders are set to meet in Nairobi

Tensions continue to be high in the East African region after Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) the newest Partner State accused Rwanda and Uganda of “supporting” the M23 rebel group that has recently resumed fighting.

Diplomatically, the assertions of the DRC government in Kinshasa accusing Kampala and Kigali of having a hand in the current spate of M23 attacks, soaks the development agenda of the East African Community (EAC) which focuses on having a big market.

Rwanda, Uganda and DRC need each other in order to ensure that there is balance of trade in each of the three economies since they all benefit from products produced across the region. The three nations neighbor each other and have nationals who share culture and language across the borders.

Rwanda’s case is almost at a boiling point after the Congolese government took a step to kick out the neighbour’s ambassador Vincent Karenga from Kinshasa and also recalling their own from Kigali. As for Uganda, the Congolese government has not officially accused Kampala but a section of parliamentarians have been pressuring President Felix Tshisekedi to sever diplomatic relations with President Yoweri Museveni’s government.

These politicians have also asked President Tshisekedi to terminate the joint military operation agreement that was signed last year to flash out the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) a Uganda terrorist group. Through the operation code-named Shujja, the Forces Armees de la Republique du Congo (FARDC) and the Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF) have been fighting the ADF.

Uganda and Rwanda have insisted that they do not have a hand in the ongoing fighting by the M23 rebels.  President Paul Kagame of Rwanda recently revealed in a Tweet that he had engaged with the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres saying ending the conflict in eastern DRC needs to be based on foundations of previous negotiations.

“Few hours ago, I had good discussion with the UNSG (United Nations Secretary General) on the conflict in E.DRC. The ways and means to de-escalate and address the issues to a peaceful end are with us building on the Nairobi, Luanda and other international efforts! We just have to commit ourselves to applying them!!!” read Kagame’s tweet.

Meanwhile in Kampala, the State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Henry Okello Oryem lashed out at DRC for accusing Uganda wrongfully, saying that the country which is involved in efforts to pacify eastern DRC cannot turn around and support rebels.

Indeed, the EAC has committed to jointly ending insecurity in the eastern DRC by coming up with a regional standby force that would be deployed. Kenya Special Forces have already been deployed in DRC to operate in a region where FARDC and UPDF have already been working together.

On Friday, former Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta and Burundi President Evariste Ndayishimiye who is the current Chairman of the EAC Heads of State summit met in Bujumbura to discuss how the regional block can help end the tension between partner states.

A statement released by the EAC Headquarters in Arusha indicated that the meeting reviewed the progress in the implementation of the political and military tracks, set out to stablise eastern DRC.  Uhuru and Ndayisimye noted that there is need for a comprehensive solution to the protracted security situation in eastern DRC. M23 is one of the dozens of known negative forces operating in that part of the country something that has a negative toll on trade.

 “They reviewed the recent developments in North Kivu, particularly the resurgence of violence, which has undermined the gains that had been made; as local armed groups had offered to lay down arms in return for peace and urged all parties, to join in the quest for lasting peace in Eastern DRC through the inter-Congolese dialogue” reads part of the statement.

This meeting which also called for the unconditional withdraw of all foreign armed forces from eastern DRC resolved that the next session of peace dialogue will take place in Nairobi commencing on November 16.

The statement also adds that, the consultative meeting agreed a roadmap for the implementation of the political track, towards a sustainable solution to peace and security in Eastern DRC and encouraged continued complimentary engagement between the EAC-Led Process and the Luanda Process to ease tension between the brotherly states of DRC and Rwanda.

Ndayishimiye also noted that he is engaged in dialogue with all EAC Heads of State on embracing a regional approach, within the agreed framework, in handling the situation and building trust among EAC Partner States.

About M23

On and off the fighting battlefield, the M23 rebel group was formed in 2012 comprised of most Congolese-Tutsi fighters. In the same year, the group captured Goma, the Capital of the North Kivu province before being defeated jointly by FARDC and UN forces.

Uganda mediated the peace deal between the Congolese government and the M23 with a deal signed in 2013 leading to many of the group fighters getting integrated into the FARDC.

But M23 resumed fighting in late 2021, accusing the government in Kinshasa of failing to honor its commitments under the peace agreement.

Currently, the group has captured a number of towns near the border with Rwanda and Uganda.

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