President Kagame criticizes EAC’s silence on DRC’s expulsion of regional troops

By Esther Muhozi
On 16 March 2024 at 03:30

President Paul Kagame has criticized the silence of the East African Community (EAC) when the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) expelled its troops, which were part of a mission to support peace efforts in North Kivu Province.

These troops, forming the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF), entered North Kivu in December 2022, following a decision made by the heads of states of the EAC during their meeting in Nairobi in April 2022.

The EACRF was tasked with protecting areas previously captured by the armed group M23 and to prevent conflicts between M23 and the DRC’s forces, awaiting negotiation between the two sides.

However, the DRC government expressed a desire for the EACRF to combat M23, a stance the leadership of M23 reminded was not part of its mandate. This led to the expulsion of these troops at the end of 2023, replaced by forces from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), including South Africa, Tanzania, and Malawi.

In an interview with NTV Kenya, President Kagame highlighted that the breakdown began when the DRC ``assumed the authority ’’ to decide against the inclusion of Rwandan troops in the EACRF, a decision the EAC accepted.

Kagame explained that Rwanda agreed to this, showing that its priority was for the EACRF to achieve its objective of restoring peace in eastern DRC and contributing to the resolution of conflicts between opposing sides.

He reminded that the EACRF’s mission was to assist the DRC government in resolving conflicts, and it had been decided that any side violating the ceasefire agreement would be opposed.

The President expressed surprise at the EAC leadership’s lack of response to the expulsion of EACRF from the DRC.

He said, "The EAC troops were expelled. Until now I Am still wondering , what is EAC? In reality, EAC does not exist since this issue arose. Because we were never told what happened. Since their expulsion, no one has explained to us."

Kagame also mentioned that when the DRC expelled the EACRF, it was in discussions with SADC leaders to deploy troops against M23 in North Kivu, which was agreed upon by South Africa, Tanzania, and Malawi in December 2023.

He noted that by requesting SADC to replace EAC in North Kivu, the DRC was creating conflicts between the two regional blocs, which should have collaborated to resolve the country’s conflicts.

He commented, "It seems they were creating conflicts and misunderstandings between SADC and EAC. There wasn’t even a statement saying, ’It’s okay, let’s join forces, work together,’ it was about replacing EACRF with SADC troops."

"Why don’t people discuss this? Why don’t EAC and SADC talk about the issue and seek a solution? There are ways people can cooperate, communicate, and avoid unnecessary problems."

The EAC is led by South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir since November 24, 2023, succeeding Burundi’s Evariste Ndayishimiye, who had breached the community’s decisions by deploying his country’s troops to the Masisi territory to fight M23, based on an agreement with Félix Tshisekedi in August 2023.