EAC Regional Force Begins Withdrawal from DRC as Mandate Expires

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The East African Community (EAC) Regional Force began its withdrawal from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on Sunday after authorities in Kinshasa declined to renew its mandate.

According to an announcement made by the EAC on November 24, summits, “the DRC would not renew the mandate of the regional force beyond December 8, 2023.”

It should be noted that the EAC first deployed troops in the violence-plagued region in November 2022, after the resurgence of the M23 rebel group.

The EAC deployed its forces to aid in the liberation of the rebel-held districts at the request of the DRC authorities.

However, the future of the deployment was thrown into doubt after DRC President Felix Tshisekedi accused the force of working with the rebels rather than forcing them to lay down arms.

According to a spokesman for the force on the ground, who did not elaborate on future withdrawals, a first contingent of about 100 Ugandan soldiers from the regional force—which also consists of soldiers from Kenya, Burundi, and South Sudan—left Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo on a plane headed for Nairobi, the capital of Kenya.

Its departure comes as the country faces continued fighting between the M23 group and the DRC army, supported by the militia, who call themselves patriots.

The rebel group’s spokesperson, Lawrence Kanyuka, stated in a statement that “the M23 will recover and occupy all its areas that it handed over to the EAC-RF at the beginning of the peace process” for the benefit of the civilian population.

He further added that “the M23 reiterates its commitment to peacefully resolve the ongoing conflict in eastern DRC.”

The activities of M23 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have resulted in numerous deaths, contributing to the toll of casualties in the ongoing conflict in the region.

Tshisekedi is counting on security forces from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), to which the DRC also belongs, to replace the EAC as the country prepares for the upcoming general elections scheduled for December 20, in a country of around 100 million inhabitants.

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