- William Ruto, the President of the Republic of Kenya, named Nyagah as the new General Officer for Western Command in a series of military appointments.
- His position in EACRF was taken up by Maj-Gen Alphaxard Kiugu.
On April 27, East Africa Community Regional Force (EACRF) commander Major General Jeff Nyagah said he was stepping down in a shock resignation.
William Ruto, the President of the Republic of Kenya, has since named Nyagah as the new General Officer for Western Command in a series of military appointments.
His position in EACRF was taken up by Maj-Gen AlphaxardKiugu.
Nyagah had indicated he was quitting after a threat to his security.
He said mercenaries placed monitoring devices, flew drones and conducted surveillance of his residence in early January, forcing him to relocate.
Even while the resignation letter that he allegedly penned and addressed to the East African Community Secretariat was rubbished by the Kenyan Defense Forces in a tweet, the challenges that Gen Nyagah faced in his line of duty were well-documented.
In a shocking departure from diplomatic protocol during an EAC Heads of State Summit held in Bujumbura on February 4, this year, Felix Tshisekedi, the President of theDemocratic Republic of Congo-DRC, aggressed the now former EACRF commander right in front of his Commander in Chief, President Ruto in the full glare of the press.
Wagging a finger in his face, Tshisekedi told Gen. Nyagah, through an interpreter, “not favour the M23”.
Ominously the Congolese president then warned him, “It would be a shame if the population were to attack you. You came to help us solve a problem, not to be part of it. Pay attention to this”.
Just two days after that chaotic scene, thousands of people took to the streets in Goma, erecting barricades and burning tyres in protest against the perceived inaction of an East African military force against the M23.
This accusation, of the EACRF being biased against the DRC government, was echoed by not just the president of DRC, but also by the Congolese armed forces- FARDC.
In comments to the media on April 29, the spokesperson of the FARDC, General Sylvain Ekenge, not only falsely said that Gen Jeff Nyagah had not produced results on the ground, but also accused him of ensuring "peaceful coexistence" with the M23 in areas controlled by the Kenyan contingent of the EACRF.
The sentiments voiced by the Congolese leadership against the EACRF are being mirrored by citizens.
According to a 23, February poll jointly conducted by the Congolese research instituteEbuteli, the Congo Research Group (CRG), and the Bureau d’études de recherche et de consulting international (BERCI), 69% of Congolese polled did not believe the regional force will successfully carry out its mandate.
Into this mix is ethical rhetoric that isn’t helpful.
Viral audios being shared on Twitter and other social media platforms accuse the Kenyan Defence Forces in the EACRF of having been infiltrated by ‘Tutsi’.
In fact, these audios go so far as to accuse President Ruto himself of being Tutsi!
For the EACRF to experience this level of frustration is not a surprise, especially when its mandate isn’t fully grasped by the average Congolese.
Whereas the EACRF’s mandate clearly states, as Gen Nyagah reminded Congolese media time and time again, that the forces were not meant to do FARDC’s job, rather they were put in place to ensure the implementation of the peace process.
As he told the media days before he resigned, the M23 was rather cleverly doing its bit.
“We have seen the full withdrawal of M23 from the areas of Sake, Kilolirwe and Kitchangawhich has been confirmed by the EAC, Ad Hoc and expanded joint verification mechanism all of which work independent of the regional force. They have submitted that report and circulated it to the government of DRC, and the facilitators of the Nairobi and Luanda processes."
This statement obviously was not what DR Congo Foreign Minister, ChristopheLutundula, wanted to hear.
Reacting furiously to Gen. Nyagah’s missive, he insisted that the EACRF’s mandate was to fight the M23.
Speaking to Radio Okapi, Minister Lutundulacalled Gen Nyagah’s statements “counterproductive”.
According to him, they were “contrary to what must be done so that the regional force can restore its image”.
This is the atmosphere that Gen Kiugu finds himself.
On one side is an EAC bloc (minus DRCongo) searching for ways to support the peace process that former President Uhuru Kenyatta is leading on, and on the other side is a Congolese leadership as well as a civilian population that wants an all-out war, waged by East African troops, against the M23.
It is highly unlikely that Gen.
Kiugu will do as Kinshasa wishes, without the M23 first provoking such a response.
So, don’t be surprised if we receive his resignation as well.
Eugene Anangwe is a long-serving journalist now based in DRC