Heads of state of the East African Community (EAC) have directed the regional armies to immediately deploy in the Democratic Republic of Congo against the armed groups there.
At their conclave, Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta presented a brief on the political track of the Nairobi process which detailed actions and activities that have been undertaken since the convening of the last conclave. These included the holding of consultations with various armed and rebel groups within DRC as a follow-up to the consultations undertaken by DRC with the rebel groups in Nairobi.
The EAC conclave in Kenya was attended by all the seven heads of state except Tanzania which was represented by the High Commissioner to Nairobi. The heads of state directed that "an immediate ceasefire be enforced and cessation of hostilities commence immediately, including withdrawal from recently taken positions."
Earlier, DRC officials were quoted as welcoming the idea of a regional force deploying there, if only it didn't include Rwandan soldiers, as the two countries accuse each other of supporting rebels across the common border. The conflict in the country intensified in March 2022 and last week, as one of the rebel groups, M23 overran Bunagana town at the border with Uganda.
The rebels accused the government forces there of attacking their positions first, prompting them to fight back. Early last week, the M23 leaders also accused Kinshasa of ignoring their calls to respond to their concerns and vowed to fight on till they're listened to.
"Democratic Republic of Congo government knows our requests and no feedback yet," said M23 spokesperson Maj Willy Ngoma. "We shall keep capturing different parts of the country including Goma city because our soldiers are ready to fight."
It is not yet clear if the rebels and other fighting groups in the region will accept to disarm as directed by the heads of state. In a communique issued after the meeting, the presidents called on all the warring parties to fast-track the peace process for the sake of peace for the people.
"In doing so, the political process should be intensified by all parties in order to allow the citizens of the DRC feel safe and secure and be able to pick up and continue their respective social, cultural and economic activities," it reads in part.
The leaders also "agreed and reinforced that trust and confidence-building, cessation of hostilities, unconditional ceasefire, participation in the political processes in the country, are the key issues that need concerted, urgent and durable resolution."
Other critical issues named are prioritization and participation in the country's development, citizenship, presence of foreign negative elements, the fate of combatants during reintegration and status of refugees and internally displaced persons, as requiring concerted, urgent and durable resolution.
The heads of state also directed an end to all they called offensive language, hate speech, threats of genocide "and other politically inciting language" which must be discouraged by all parties.
"The people of the DRC must be encouraged to work together in order to stabilize the eastern DRC for it to prosper," the leaders concluded.
The presidents were also briefed by the chiefs of defence forces in the seven countries who had just ended their consultations a day before. The brief defined the problem and highlighted the threat analysis, the concept of operations, status of forces agreement, rules of engagement, and other legal and technical regulations to facilitate the operationalization of the regional force and its various operational arms.
The presidents accepted and adopted the brief by the army chiefs for immediate implementation, and directed that the regional force should in cooperation with the military and administrative forces of the DRC, seek to stabilize and secure the peace in the country.
"The regional force should also cooperate in the implementation of the disarmament and demobilization process."
The force will be constituted as an East African Community force under the EAC Protocol on Peace and Security and the EAC Treaty Article 124 on regional peace and security and Article 125 on cooperation in defence.