Reports confirm extension of ceasefire in Eastern DR Congo

On 16 December 2023 at 07:15

Parties involved in the ceasefire agreement in eastern DR Congo have unanimously decided to extend the truce by an additional two weeks as per media reports.

This decision follows the expiration of a 72-hour ceasefire that had been reportedly established between the Congolese army (FARDC) and the M23 rebels on December 11.

Quoting a senior US official, it has been stated that "there has been a two-week extension to the ceasefire" in eastern DR Congo. The United States, through National Security Council Spokesperson Adrienne Watson, expressed its support for the ceasefire, emphasizing its importance for regional stability.

The statement from the White House highlighted the significance of a stable environment for the upcoming scheduled elections on December 20, asserting that "having an election when there is active conflict is not in anyone’s interest."

The parties involved had been maintaining a delicate ceasefire since November 2022, which was unfortunately shattered on October 1 when hostilities resumed. This development posed a serious threat to the peace efforts in the region.

Ugandan troops, part of the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF), have successfully concluded their withdrawal from eastern DR Congo following the expiration of the Force’s mandate on December 8.

This exit process, initiated in early December, saw the departure of the first group, Kenyan troops, from Goma International Airport on December 3. The EAC army chiefs, meeting in Arusha, Tanzania, on December 6, adopted the regional force’s exit plan. The complete withdrawal of the EAC Regional Force is expected to conclude by January 7.

The decision for withdrawal was prompted by Kinshasa’s refusal to renew the mandate, communicated to the EAC Summit on November 24. Major General Jeff Nyagah, the Regional Force’s first commander, had resigned in April, citing threats to his security. Kinshasa’s desire for the regional force to combat the M23, which was not within its operational mandate, further complicated the situation.

Eastern DR Congo, home to numerous armed groups, has been a hotspot of conflict for nearly three decades. Despite multiple interventions, including the UN’s peacekeeping mission MONUSCO, violence persists. The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres communicated plans for the withdrawal of MONUSCO in August, marking what experts deem a "monumental failure" for the peacekeeping force.

As tensions continue to simmer in the region, the extension of the ceasefire offers a brief respite, underscoring the delicate balance required to navigate peace efforts in eastern DR Congo.