ARUSHA – Defence ministers from the East African Community on Sunday proposed the extension of the region’s forces’ mission in the DRC until peace and stability is fully restored.
In a statement shared by Kenya Defence Cabinet Secretary Aden Duale, the extension of the East African Community Regional Force is based on gains made so far.
“Kenya being one of the Troops Contributing Countries welcomed this move and committed to support the quest for peace in the economic development of the DRC,” CS Duale said.
The CS said the Extra-Ordinary Meeting of Ministers in Arusha, Tanzania, followed a series of other high-level deliberations with legal and security experts.
He said the Defence ministers discussed a range of regional security concerns with a focus on the situation in the Eastern DRC and noted the need for the extension of the EACRF mandate given the relative calm in the country.
“The sitting proposed an extension of their occupancy until peace and stability is fully restored,” he said.
Present were Ministers of Defense Alain Tribert Mutabazi (Burundi and Chair of EAC Council of Defense Ministers), Dr Stergomena Lawrence (Tanzania), Vincent Ssempijja (Uganda), Jean-Pierre Bemba (DRC) and Representative of South Sudan.
EACRF was first deployed in November last year and had its mandate extended in March for six months. It consists of Kenyan, Ugandan, Burundian and South Sudanese troops.
In August, EAC Defence ministers unanimously supported the call to have the EACRF remain focused on its mandate to support DRC in restoring peace.
An Extraordinary Security meeting held in Nairobi also considered the progress of the Regional Force in restoring security.
In August, CS Duale was Goma to sign a bilateral training agreement with DRC Minister of Defence and deputy prime Minister Jean-Pierre Bemba.
During the meeting, Duale requested Pemba to implore the DRC government to extend the EACRF troops mandate beyond the September deadline to consolidate the gains made by the force.
Among the achievements Duale cites that the force has attained include securing of Goma, the commercial city he said was just seven kilometres away from falling on the hands of M23 by the time Kenyan troops, the first to deploy, got to the DRC.
He also noted that with the arrival of the force, the supply routes have opened and humanitarian assistance is moving properly. A lot of the IDPs in Kibumba are slowly going back to their farms, he said.
Additionally, Duale noted that human casualties and rape cases have stopped, and the force in now opening up pre-cantonment sites, where M23 and other armed groups will surrender their arms and form part of the agreed rehabilitation.