NAIROBI – Former Kenya’s President and Facilitator of the EAC-led Nairobi Peace Process Uhuru Kenyatta has differed sharply with his successor, William Ruto, over the handling of DRC opposition figures and M23 rebels in Nairobi.
In a statement on Monday through his official social media accounts, Kenyatta said he watched with shock and dismay at the developments of December 15, where individuals claiming to be pursuing the interest of greater peace and stability in the DRC initiated yet another political and military Alliance to challenge the legitimate political status quo in the DRC.
On the said day, former DRC election chief Corneille Nangaa, now in opposition and living in exile, and Bertrand Bisimwa M23 rebel group leader announced the creation of a political-military alliance to include other armed groups to “save the country”, which is going to elections on December 20, 2023.
Nangaa said at least nine armed groups, including the M23, had joined him in his “Congo River Alliance” project for “national unity and stability”, even as he called for “the union of all political, social and military forces” to “rebuild the state” and “restore peace” in the DRC.
However, Kenyatta rejected the developments, “in particular their military character, and the accompanying politically charged and provocative rhetoric”.
“President (Rtd) Kenyatta restates his support for the US-brokered ceasefire and continues to seek its indefinite extension in order to facilitate the peace building process, put an end to the senseless killing and suffering of the people of the eastern DRC, and set the stage for a resumption of the Nairobi peace process, and the brokering of a lasting peace in the troubled region of the eastern DRC,” the statement, coming a day after President Ruto expressed his position on the matter, added.
In a joint media interview on Sunday, President Ruto said he had rejected a request by Kinshasa to arrest the opposition and rebel leaders, who addressed the press at the Serena Hotel in Nairobi.
“DRC wanted to know if we could arrest the people who released the statement, but we said we cannot. We only arrest criminals not people issuing statements. We are a democracy and Nairobi is a media hub with many bureaus from CNN, BBC…,” the President said.
“Statements are issued almost every day against me but I never arrested anyone. That is undemocratic…that is not how Kenya is…we are different,” he added.
Asked if there was a diplomatic row, Ruto said as far as he is concerned, there was none, and it is withing Kinshasa’s right to recall its Ambassador in Nairobi.
The differences between President Ruto and Kenyatta on the matter, an extension of their relationship in the context of domestic politics, risk derailing the political process.
Already, the Kenya-led EAC Regional Force has withdrawn following dissatisfaction on the part of the DRC government on how it dealt or failed to deal with M23 in the Eastern region.