Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday called for the immediate deployment of a new regional military force to try to stop rebel violence in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
A statement issued by the State House in Nairobi said President Kenyatta was concerned with renewed violence in North Kivu and wanted the area declared a weapons free zone.
“In doing so, I call for the activation of the East African Regional Force under the auspices of the East African Community (EAC).”
The seven countries of the East African Community (EAC), which Congo joined this year, agreed in April to set up a joint force but had not specified when it might be deployed.
“The regional force is a component of the military/security enforcement track also provided for in the communiqué adopted on 21st April 2022.
“In this regard, the meeting of the regional commanders of the respective defence forces, cooperating in the Nairobi Process, scheduled for Sunday 19th June 2022, in Nairobi, should finalise preparations to undertake the deployment of the regional force.”
His call comes against the backdrop of a major offensive in eastern Congo by the M23 rebel group, which on Monday seized a strategic town on the Ugandan border.
“The East African Regional Force shall be deployed to the Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu provinces immediately to stabilize the zone and enforce peace in support of the DRC security forces and in close coordination with Monusco [UN peacekeepers],” Kenyatta said.
The offensive by the M23, whose last major uprising captured swaths of the eastern Congo countryside in 2012 and 2013, has rekindled tensions between Congo and neighbouring Rwanda. Congo accuses Rwanda of supporting the M23, including by sending its own troops across the border. Rwanda denies this.
It was not clear from Kenyatta’s statement whether Congo had approved the deployment.