Some Congolese youth on Monday held demonstrations in the city of Goma, North Kivu, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, alleging the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) was passive to armed groups.
They demanded the departure of the regional troops from the country.
The youth protested in the streets, erecting road barricades, forcing businesses to close.
The North Kivu military governor Constant Ndima tried to calm the demonstrators in vain.
A local group, Lutte pour le changement (Lucha), organised the protests, urging traders to suspend work on Monday to join the demonstrations.
The regional force was deployed in November last year to help rein in armed groups. They have preferred military diplomacy instead of launching offensives, tactics the locals say appear to have emboldened armed groups like the M23.
“We think that the East African Community is behaving like it is biased because where M23 is being chased away, the East African Community is coming in to protect that area and prevent our (Congolese) armed forces from entering.
“And we are unhappy with the Francophonie, which is silent and says nothing, the African Union, which is silent and says nothing,” claimed a demonstrator.
A communiqué from the Deputy Prime Minister in charge of Foreign Affairs issued in the aftermath of the extraordinary summit of the Heads of State of the East African Community in Burundi last week stated that DRC expected the force to fight armed rebels, not hold dialogue with those who refuse to lay down arms.
“The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo wishes to recall that the mandate of the Regional Force is unequivocally offensive, in accordance with the letter and spirit of the communiqués of the three conclaves of the Heads of State of the East African Community of April and June 2022 in Nairobi, as well as the final communiqué of the Luanda mini-summit,” the statement said on Sunday.
On Saturday in Bujumbura, DRC’s President Félix Tshisekedi urged the EACRF commander, General Jeff Nyagah, to take action, according to a video from the meeting.
This is the third time Goma has seen demonstrations against the forces. On Saturday, police dispersed a crowd with teargas. The police also quelled a similar protest in January.
Meanwhile, fighting between the M23 rebels and the FARDC (Congolese army) continues, despite the recommendations of the Heads of State of the East African Community, who have demanded an “immediate ceasefire.”