The South Sudan Contingent (SSUDCON) in the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) commenced its exit from the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Friday, following Kenyan troops as the mandate of the mission ended.
Over 250 SSUDCOM troops exited through Goma International Airport becoming the second contingent to withdraw. Kenya has already withdrawn 300 troops.
The troops had shared a zone with the Kenyan Contingent in Rutshuru territory where they jointly conducted operations for the protection of civilians and supporting humanitarian aid.
In a statement, EACRF said the departure aligns with its Exit Plan, as approved by the Chiefs of Defence Forces/Staff in an extraordinary meeting held on Wednesday in Arusha, Tanzania.
“This decision followed a directive from the 23rd Ordinary Summit, which took place on November 24, 2023, in Arusha, Tanzania where the EAC Heads of State took note of the DRC’s decision not to extend the EACRF mandate beyond December 8, 2023,” the statement explained.
The Kenyan troops left Goma through the airport on Monday morning, days ahead of the official end of the regional force's mandate.
EACRF confirmed that the remaining EACRF troops, including Uganda and Burundi contingents, will continue their withdrawal and backloading of equipment by air and road respectively with the team stationed at EACRF Headquarters being the last component to exit Goma.
EACRF officially ceases its operations in DRC with effect from today, a move that has since been notified and adopted by the regional military heads and defense ministers.
In an earlier statement, EACRF said the Chiefs of Defence Forces' meeting in Arusha raised concerns regarding the ongoing clashes in the Joint Operation Area where the force’s troops are deployed and urged the local force FARDC, M23, and other armed groups to cease hostilities to enable a resumption of the peace processes.
“As EACRF prepare to exit from Eastern DRC, the government of DRC has assured the contingents of their commitment to ensure the force enjoys security and the necessary assistance during movement to respective transit locations, Goma International Airport, and through border posts,” the statement added.