DRC’s President Tshisekedi threatens to expel EAC regional troops next month

DRC's President Tshisekedi threatens to expel EAC regional troops next month
The President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo

Kinshasa, DR Congo | URN | The President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo has told the East African Community Regional Force (EAC-RF) troops, deployed as part of a peacekeeping mission in the war-troubled province of North Kivu that they will be expelled from his country next month if they do not fulfill their mandate.

“As the mandate ends in June if on that date we consider that the mandate is not fulfilled, I believe that we will decide to accompany these contingents who have come to the rescue of the Democratic Republic of Congo with honour to thank them for trying to make their share of contribution to peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo and to see how we can continue to pacify our country ourselves,” said the President in a statement. 

According to resolutions made by the EAC heads of state summits, regional troops from Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan, and Burundi were deployed in North Kivu, specifically in the territories of Rutshuru, Masisi, and Nyiragongo, to occupy positions vacated by the March 23 Movement (M23) rebels and other armed groups, paving the way for political dialogue.

However, the deployment of the EAC-RF troops sparked criticism from activists, locals, and politicians, who accused them of failing to launch an assault against the M23 rebels. This was exacerbated by announcements from some heads of state, such as Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and his Kenyan counterpart William Ruto, that the troops would not fight the M23 rebels if they cooperated in implementing the resolutions. 

During his visit to Gaborone, Botswana on Tuesday 9, May 2023 of this week, Tshisekedi stated that if the EAC regional force fails to play its planned role, the DRC will be obliged to demand their departure from its territory by June 2023. This statement came one day after the announcement of the imminent deployment of troops from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), following a meeting of heads of state in Namibia.

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Tshisekedi cites problems with the regional force, claiming that they have not fulfilled their assigned role. He also argues that there is a cohabitation between the contingents of the regional force and the M23 terrorists in certain regions, which was not planned in the program. He claims that the goal was to force the M23 forces to a ceasefire, withdrawal, and quartering.

He adds that after their departure, efforts will continue with the SADC force, which will be deployed shortly, and the Angolan forces, which will have the mission of reassuring the M23 rebels during their period of cantonment.

Neither the EAC regional force nor the heads of state have responded to Tshisekedi’s statement. Bertrand Bisimwa, M23 rebels’ president, has released a statement arguing that by withdrawing from all its defensive positions in favour of the EAC troops, the M23 convinced itself to facilitate a political solution to the conflict in accordance with the Luanda and Nairobi resolutions.