- Under EACRF, Kenya will endeavour to make sure that the people of Eastern DRC will have peace
- The mission has two battalions from Uganda, two from Burundi and one from South Sudan.
Kenya gave a final signal of joining the East Africa Community Regional Force (EACRF) when the team to depart for DRC was handed a flag.
This came after months of delays which were occasioned by among others regional politics.
The move means the team is free to deploy to the war-torn DRC to contain conflict there.
President William Ruto presided over the event at colourful event that took place at the Embakasi Garrison, Nairobi and was attended by top Kenya Defence Forces commanders.
Ruto said it is Kenya’s “aspiration to unlock this potential and enable our people to unlock a future of possibilities.”
“Every nation desires to guarantee its people peace. Without peace, all potential is different in perpetuity. This has been the unfortunate story of our dear brothers and sisters in Eastern DRC.”
He said under EACRF they will endeavour to make sure that the people of Eastern DRC will have peace and assured the CDF of government support in the peace support missions like Monusco.
“I am confident that you understand the immense nature of the mission you are about to embark on and the expectations that come with it. "
Ruto said in the last 48 hours, he had talked to the bosses of the AU and UN and they both agree that this mission is good and important for the region.
He said he had talked with regional presidents and it is their collective responsibility to confront criminal terrorism and all negative elements that deny the region opportunity for prosperity and growth.
“I have come to the conclusion that it is important and urgent to take this deployment. Together with the president of DRC, we have agreed on the framework of how Kenya will work with forces from there in disarmament,” he said.
“I dare repeat that we will not allow armed groups to deny us the potential for shared prosperity.”
The team showcase dozens of special vehicles to be used by the troops in the operation.
The mission has two battalions from Uganda, two from Burundi and one from South Sudan.
The troops will conduct and help in disarmament exercises.
Chief of Defence Forces Gen Robert Kibochi said their success in the mission will be enabled by good political and international will.
“Today's event understand underscores our commitment as a country to ensure peace in the region,” he said.
Deployment of Kenyan troops to the DRC follows a decision endorsed and adopted by regional leaders at the third EAC Heads of State Conclave on Peace and Security in Eastern DRC held in Nairobi in June 2022.
The Conclave agreed to have an East Africa Community Regional Force (EACRF) to quell a flare-up of violence in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo
EACRF in March 2022 held a Command Post Exercise dubbed, ‘Mashariki Salaam’ in Nairobi.
The exercise was aimed at boosting structures and helping member states in planning, preparing and executing multi-dimensional peace support operations.
EASF was established in 2004 with the objective of discharging in a timely manner, the functions of maintaining peace and security.
It is mandated by the African Union Peace and Security Council to respond effectively to crises within Eastern Africa and across the African continent.
This is done through regional conflict prevention, management and resolution.
This comes in the wake of rising tension between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) over Kigali’s alleged support for the M23, a notorious rebel group.
Kinshasa claims Kigali is backing the M23 – a primarily Congolese Tutsi group – after clashes between its fighters and the Congolese army broke out last week in the North Kivu province, which borders Rwanda.
On September 9, the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Félix Antoine Tshisekedi presided over the signing of an agreement giving green light to the deployment of the EAC Joint Regional Force to fight the negative forces.
East African Community (EAC) Secretary General, Peter Mathuki and DRC’s Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Christophe Lutundula Apala Pen’Apala signed the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) at the official residence of the President in Kinshasa, DRC.
The SOFA outlines the obligations and responsibilities of the regional force while on DRC territory and the facilitation and support that will be granted by the DRC government in line with the Constitution and applicable laws.
The Force headquarters has been established and key personnel appointed and including EAC Force Commander Major General Jeff Nyagah from Kenya and one of the two deputies Brigadier Emma Kaputa of the DRC.
Kenya's African Union (AU) peace envoy ex-president Uhuru Kenyatta Sunday condemned the escalation of conflict in parts of DRC.
Kenyatta called on the parties involved to "agree to a cessation of hostilities" and engage in peace talks.
Kenyatta who is also the East African Community (EAC) facilitator of the inter -Congolese Consultations and Dialogue on peace restoration, further emphasized that there is no military solution to the conflict but that embracing peaceful talks.
"The EAC calls on the parties to the current skirmishes to immediately halt their offensives, agree to a cessation of hostilities, allow for unhindered and sustained humanitarian access, withdraw and vacate from occupied areas and pursue a negotiated settlement through peace talks," he said in a statement.
He also censured conflicts in part of South Kivu urging armed groups to voluntarily lay down their arms and participate in the National Disarmament and Demobilization Programme.
On Monday, Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame said he had a good discussion with the UNSG on the conflict in East DRC.
“The ways and means to de-escalate...& address the issues to a peaceful end are with us building on the Nairobi, Luanda & other international efforts! We just have to commit ourselves to apply them!”
The conflict in the region known to be mineral-rich has been the battleground for more than a hundred armed groups fighting for control of territory there or using it as a base to launch attacks into some of its immediate neighbours – Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Rwanda and Uganda.
According to a recent count by the United Nations (UN), at least 122 rebel groups have been fighting for more than 25 years.