NAIROBI– Kenya is ready to leave eastern DRC, if it is required to, Defence Minister Aden Duale has said.
Speaking on Citizen TV on Wednesday, CS Duale said the mandate of the East African Community Regional Force expires on September 8, and the renewal will be done by the Heads of State and Government Summit set for Nairobi on August 30.
The CS explained that the Summit formed the Monitoring and Evaluation team that was tasked with evaluating the achievements of EACRF in Eastern DRC, and that it will table its report before the Chiefs of Defence Forces from the EAC on August 20.
Between August 21-23, Defence ministers from EAC will meet in Nairobi, which then will followed by an Extra-Ordinary Heads of States Summit around August 30, Duale said.
“If the Summit agrees that we stay, we will be there. If it says no, we will pull out our troops, if the Commander-in-Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces feels in his wisdom that we have no more business in DRC, we will withdraw, if the DRC government says we are happy with you take your bags and go, we have all the logistics, our troops will be here in seven days,” the CS added.
He, however, noted that Kenya has a moral duty as an anchor state to maintain peace and stability in the region, and that’s why the US and UN want Nairobi to lead a multinational force in Haiti.
Foreign Affairs Minister Alfred Mutua recently said Kenya had “accepted to positively consider” leading a force in Haiti and sending 1,000 police officers to train the Haitian National Police, “restore normalcy” and protect strategic installations.
Duale added that Kenya used to be number four in peacekeeping and restoration in the world but now ranks number 43.
“In between something happened and that’s why we have just passed the Peace Fund and regulations, Kenya is known for its peace keeping from Yugoslavia and we want to take it back to its role as an anchor state and peacekeeping force not only in Africa but in the world,” Duale added. .
He explained that Kenya has three three different groups of the Kenya Defence Forces in the DRC: The Quick Reaction Force about 200-300 soldiers under the special forces serving under the UN Stabilization Programme of the DRC (MONUSCO); section of the KDF from Kenya’s training institutions. Kenya Military Assistance Training programme and EACRF.
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 on 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.
But we still have some commotions, he noted.
“All this we are doing to support the political track of reconciliation led by former President Uhuru Kenyatta. Ours was like a safeguard. A stable DRC is good for Kenya given the banking interests by Equity and KCB banks, the Port of Mombasa,”he added.
Despite this, there has been a campaign against Kenyan troops, demanding their withdrawal, with Maj Gen Jeff Nyagah quitting as the Force Commander. He has since been replaced by Maj Gen Alphaxard Kiugu, a Kenyan soldier.
In his resignation letter, Maj Gen Nyagah cited “aggravated threat” to his safety and a “systemic plan” to frustrate efforts to address militia violence in the DRC, further saying foreign military contractors were sent to survey his home in January and placed monitoring devices that forced him to relocate.
Nyagah’s letter also stated that he was the target of orchestrated “negative media campaigns” that accused the EACRF of being soft on M23 rebels that have wreaked havoc in eastern DRC.