EACRF moves on after Nyagah exit, DR Congo roots for combat

Sunday May 07 2023
Ugandan soldiers from EACRF stand guard

Ugandan soldiers from EACRF stand guard near one of their bases in Bunagana, Democratic Republic of Congo on April 19, 2023. EACRF has moved on after the exit of former Commander Maj-Gen Jeff Nyagah. PHOTO | GLODY MURHABAZI | AFP


The East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) has moved on after the exit of former Commander Maj-Gen Jeff Nyagah, even though the Democratic Republic of Congo was still questioning the role of the mission in ending perennial conflict.

A meeting of regional defence chiefs initially scheduled for Bujumbura last week was postponed with the reason given as another high-profile conference on Great Lakes peace in which UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was to attend.

The defence chiefs had been expected to provide a way forward including whether Kenya will continue to command the mission and for how long its mandate will be extended.

Maj-Gen Nyagah was re-deployed last week, replaced by Maj-Gen Alphaxard Muthuri Kiugu who hadn’t reported to the duty station by Friday this week.

Target M23 rebels

The DR Congo is adamant regional force should target the M23 rebel movement, the largest of numerous armed groups in eastern DR Congo. A statement released by the M23 on Friday accused Congolese forces (FARDC) of violating a ceasefire, saying they had killed 17 people in North Kivu. According to Lawrence Kanyuka, Political Spokesperson for M23, several armed groups had allied with FARDC to commit atrocities.


“On May 2, 2023, Kinshasa government forces ambushed civilians on the Kalengera-Tongo road (North Kivu) killing more than 200 cows, injuring more than 150 and several herders are missing,” it said.

The communiqué added that the armed groups attacked villages, "forcing the entire population of the area to take refuge near the EACRF.” Congolese Deputy Prime Minister in charge of Defence, Jean Pierre Bemba, responded by pointing a finger at Rwanda.

He said that “the Rwandan army continues to reinforce the positions of the M23.”

Rwanda has denied the charge several times over, and accused DR Congo of supporting the FDLR, considered remnants of the Genocide against the Tutsi.

Lacked mandate

The regional force under Nyagah had avoided confronting M23, arguing it lacked mandate.

Last week, Nairobi, Kinshasa and the East African Community distanced themselves from the departure of the force commander.

But the coordinated denials were dented after the Congolese military publicly celebrated his exit. Maj-Gen Sylvain Ekenge, spokesperson of FARDC accused the Kenyan officer of “peaceful co-existence” with the M23 rebels and Rwandan soldiers in areas controlled by the Kenyan contingent of the EAC.

“Maj-Gen Jeff Nyagah has not produced any results on the ground,” he told local media.