Talks seeking to bring lasting peace in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will continue concurrently under the Nairobi and Luanda processes, former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, who is the facilitator of the East African Community (EAC) dialogue in DRC, has announced.
In a statement, Kenyatta said the dialogue is intended to take place in Eastern DRC on yet to be disclosed dates.
The Nairobi Process focuses on ending inter-DRC hostilities while the Luanda Process focuses on ending the hostility between DRC and its neighbour Rwanda whom it accuses of sponsoring the M23 rebel group wreaking havoc in the country’s eastern region.
The resumption of the two dialogue processes is expected to further speed up and complement efforts to attain sustainable peace in the region following decades of conflict.
Kenyatta noted the Nairobi Process continued to work hand in glove with the Luanda Process led by Angolan President João Lourenço, both on political and military tracks as well as on the humanitarian actions.
Consequently, steady progress has been made in restoring peace in eastern DRC, whereby South Kivu has enjoyed relatively increased peace and reduction of hostilities since the peace process started while North Kivu has also seen a decline in violence but remains volatile.
“Steady progress is being made including delivery of humanitarian assistance to affected populations and further deployments to secure key areas and towns,” Kenyatta noted.
Military operations continue
Meanwhile, the military operations towards peace and stability in eastern DRC remain on course as envisaged by the EAC Regional Force (EACRF) mandate with ceasefire still holding between DRC armed forces (FARDC), M23 and other active armed groups for the last three weeks.
“The major armed group, M23, has withdrawn from the following locations in North Kivu on the Western front; Sake-Mshaki-Neenero and Kilolirwe. Kitchanga is scheduled to be vacated by Tuesday this week. This has been verified by an Angolan led ad hoc Mechanism EJV (IGLR) as well as EAC Monitoring and Verification Mechanisms,” Kenyatta said.
He said the main supply route of Bunagana-Rutshuru-Kibumba-Goma that will allow free movement of goods and people and delivery of humanitarian assistance will also be secured.
The regional force is almost fully deployed with the first batch of South Sudan People Defence Force (SSPDF) arriving in Goma on April 2. Their arrival marked the final phase of the deployment of EACRF into eastern DRC as directed by EAC heads of state during the 20th extra-ordinary summit held in Bujumbura on February 4, 2023.
“The deployment will enhance the sequenced and orderly withdrawal of M23 to the designated cantonment area, protection of civilians, opening up the Bunagana-Rutshuru-Rumangabo-Goma and Kitchanga-Sake-Goma main supply routes as well as subsequently support the Disarmament, Demobilisation, Community Recovery and Stabilisation Program (P-DDRCS) of all armed groups in Eastern DRC,” EACRF said in a statement released on Sunday.
Armed groups complying
SSPDF now joins Uganda’s People Defence Forces (UPDF) whose troops arrived in Goma on Thursday last week, Burundi National Defence Forces (BNDF) troops who arrived mid last month and the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) troops deployed in November last year.
BNDF troops have since taken over Karuba, Mushaki and Kirolirwe previously occupied by M23 leading to a significant return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their homes.
UPDF is expected to take charge of Bunagana, Kiwanja and Mabega as KDF take charge of Kibumba, Rumaghabo, Tongo, Kishishe and Bwiza. KDF willl also be co-opted with SSDF at the Rumaghabo temporary operating base.
Rutshuru and Masisi territories are now designated as a multinational sector as approved by the heads of state mini summit held in Addis Ababa on February 17 upon the recommendations of the East Africa Community Chiefs of Defence Forces/Chiefs of Defence Staff.
“These developments also signal that more of the armed groups are now complying to the terms of the Nairobi Process and are therefore ever more likely to be all integrated into the political track of the Nairobi Process in the future. The facilitator will continue to reach out to both political as well as armed groups, in continued efforts to help bring peace to the east of the DRC,” EACRF further noted.