African military chiefs discuss Great Lakes security issues

Thursday October 24 2019

DR Congo army patrol near the Rwandan border in 2014. Among the militias troubling the Kivu region are the ADF and FDLR. PHOTO | JUNIOR D. KANNAH | AFP


Senior military officers from five African Great Lakes countries met on Thursday to discuss violence which plagues part of their region, sources said.

A military official said senior officers from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda gathered in the eastern town of Goma, in DRC's North Kivu province.

"(They) are discussing security in the Great Lakes region. The insecurity concerns every country, not just the DRC," the source said.

DRC armed forces spokesman General Leon-Richard Kasonga said the meeting, which would end on Friday, "aims at concluding our strategic thinking on sharing our efforts for peace to become a reality."

Eastern DRC and its borders have been an area of conflict for nearly a quarter of a century.

The frontier region today is troubled by militia groups that evolved from the two Congo wars (1996-1997 and 1998-2003).


The DRC's chief of staff, General Celestin Mbala, has been suggesting joint military operations to "eradicate armed groups," both domestic and foreign, in the troubled east, according to a letter dated October 2 seen by AFP.

The letter says a first meeting was held in Goma on September 13 and 14.

On Monday, a pro-government DRC legislator, Juvenal Munubo, said he had challenged the defence ministry "to confirm the existence or not of planning for joint operations" involving the armed forces of the DRC, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda to root out the militias.

"A mistake that absolutely must be avoided is to authorise Rwandan, Ugandan and Burundian troops to enter the DRC," he warned.

Among the militias troubling the Kivu region are the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an Islamist-rooted Ugandan armed group, and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

Both groups are accused of atrocities in the DRC.

Relations between the DRC and Rwanda and Uganda are up-and-down.

The DRC has in the past accused its two neighbours of seeking to destabilise it, and they in return have described the DRC as a rear base for groups that oppose their governments.