Kenya seeks to pacify DRC concerns over East African force

Thursday May 18 2023

Kenya’s Ambassador to the DRC, George Masafu, paid a courtesy call to Deputy Prime Minister in charge of Defence, Jean-Pierre Bemba, in Kinshasa on May 16, 2023. PHOTO | KENYA EMBASSY DRC


Kenya has moved to address lingering suspicions arising from problems with the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF), seeking to strengthen ties on other issues with Kinshasa.

Nairobi says it is committed to DRC’s pursuit of long-term peace in eastern parts of the country and wants to draw from the economic fruits of that achievement.

On Tuesday, Kenya’s Ambassador to the DRC, George Masafu, met with the Deputy Prime Minister in charge of Defence, Jean-Pierre Bemba, during which they discussed the security situation and peace in the east and how Kenya and DRC could collaborate.

“As you know, Kenya and DRC are very good friends,” he said after the meeting in Kinshasa.

“Kenya has long been committed to peace in the DRC. We have had our troops in the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), the Quick Reaction Force (QRF) UN peacekeeping mission in Beni, North Kivu, eastern DRC and also have had troops for the training of Congolese soldiers in Kisangani, northeast Congo,” he added.

The Kenyan diplomat who previously fought diplomatic fires for Nairobi was meeting the Congolese official three weeks after the Kenyan commander in the EACRF, Maj-Gen Jeff Nyagah, left his station and was redeployed in Nairobi amid allegations the force had refused to beat down troublesome rebel groups in the DRC.


Read: Why Kenyan commander has exited EACRF

In fact, the EACRF has said it is a buffer force meant to support political means to end the conflict. However, Kinshasa declared a lack of satisfaction with the mission and recently embarked on the search for plan B.

Read: EACRF struggles with a belligerent host already seeking Plan B

Masafu has in the past been the soothing voice to the Congolese after President William Ruto made a snide comment about them while on a campaign trail last year. He was Kenya’s deputy president at the time.

Read: Kenyan envoy moves to quell fire in DRC over Ruto

Masafu also on Tuesday recalled that Kenyan troops have been protecting Goma, the main city in North Kivu, which was at one time threatened by the M23 rebels.

The meeting between the Kenyan ambassador and deputy PM Bemba came amid President Félix Tshisekedi’s ultimatum to EACRF on their exit from the DRC.

Read: Tshisekedi to EAC force: Act on rebels or leave

The regional force, deployed since November 2022, is led by a Kenyan command, the largest contingent in the mission.

Despite establishing a ceasefire between the M23 and the DRC army in North Kivu, the Congolese military has traded blame with the rebels over amassing weapons for a new war.

Kinshasa also blams the EACRF for “complacency” towards the M23.