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East African army awaits nod on rules for DRC mission

Saturday September 03 2022
Soldiers.

Soldiers during a joint military operation by Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo in the Beni territory, northeastern DR Congo, in December 2021. PHOTO | XINHUA

By MARY WAMBUI
By PARTICK ILUNGA

Negotiations on the mandating agreements and rules of engagement are delaying the deployment of troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo under the East African Community standby force.

The EastAfrican understands that five of the six other EAC members – including Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and South Sudan – are willing to send forces to eastern DRC but have insisted on proper ground rules to avoid repeating the mistakes of previous missions.

The Forces Agreement and Rules of Engagement will determine the size, operation area and combat freedom for each troop-contributing country.

Read: Why EAC force is yet to deploy to DR Congo

EAC leaders had in June agreed to send forces “immediately” to eastern DR Congo as part of a regional plan to aid the bloc’s newest, seventh-member deal with rebels. A source at the Department of Defence in Nairobi said Kenya is ready to deploy immediately after the agreement is signed. The troops are already training in Isiolo, some 400km north of Nairobi.

Last week, Kenya sent a second batch of the Quick Response Force troops to DR Congo. These will, however, work under the UN stabilisation force known as Monusco. Officials in Nairobi declined to state the actual number but said “over 200” commissioned and service members were deployed.

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The suggested deployment of troops under the EAC has been faced with questions, including financing of operations and sustainability.

Burundi already deployed 600 troops to Uvira in South Kivu earlier this month, citing the EAC deal. Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi and military authorities in Kinshasa said the Burundian forces are part of the EA regional force.

However, some activists in South Kivu have strongly opposed the deployment.

“What will be the rules of engagement of the new regional force? What is its mandate? What is its duration?” posed Nobel Prize winner Denis Mukwege.

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