Former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday asked countries in the East African Community to fully deploy troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Speaking for the first time after the EAC’s extra-ordinary Summit in Bujumbura, Mr Kenyatta, the EAC facilitator of the EAC-led peace process in the Congo, said the troops should help buffer liberated areas in eastern DRC from a clash between government forces and rebels.
“The Facilitator urges the countries of the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) to deploy and take up their positions urgently and without further delay throughout eastern DRC, and in the case of North Kivu, for the regional force to inter-pose itself between the fighting forces in areas where the withdrawal of the armed groups has been effected,” Kenyatta said in a statement.
He did not attend the Summit in Bujumbura last Saturday, citing logistical problems and a short notice. But Kenyatta said he endorsed the decisions by leaders of the East African Community who asked for a ceasefire, rebels to withdraw and for defence chiefs to decide new timelines for withdrawals of rebels.
Protests in Goma
The call for deployment, however, may imply his fervent support for the EACRF, authorised last year to be the EAC mission in the DR Congo to help bring peace.
But the EACRF has been dogged by protests in Goma as civilians demand that it battles M23 rebels and allows Congolese forces to take over territory left by rebels. In Addition, some of the troop contributing countries such as South Sudan and Uganda, which announced plans to deploy, are yet to be brought on to the scene. South Sudan faced opposition from Congolese officials. Uganda and Burundi had already deployed troops under a bilateral arrangement with DRC.
Kenyatta insists that the EACRF be deployed to protect civilians and prevent clashes between the M23 and Congolese forces (FARDC). So far, only the Kenyan troops in the EACRF are in Goma but have not yet entered combat.