EACRF completes withdrawal from Eastern DR Congo
The East African Community Regional Force (EACRF on Thursday completed its exit from Goma, citing a mixture of successes and drawbacks during its stay in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC.
Announcing the departure of the last troops comprised of critical units and staff based at the force’s headquarters in Goma, EACRF Commander Maj-Gen Alphaxard Kiugu said the force achieved its set out mandate but regrets that armed groups have since returned to areas they had previously vacated.
“In spite of the successes, there remains a number of sticking points. Topping this list are the posturing of various Armed Groups in areas vacated by EACRF, return of M23 in the initially vacated locations, proliferation of armed groups exploiting the existing gaps, inter-Armed Group clashes, negative propaganda against the Regional Force, the slow progress of the Disarmament, Demobilisation, Community Recovery and Stabilisation Program (P-DDRCS,” he said during a press briefing at the Force’s headquarters in DRC.
Read:EAC troops to leave DRC
EACRF was deployed in Eastern DRC in November last year at a time when the March 23 Movement (M23 rebels had made largegains by capturing areas bordering Rwanda and Uganda namelyBunagana, Rutshuru, and Rumangaboin North Kivu Provinceposing a threat to Goma and its surroundings.
Its mandate duration was initially six months, but was subsequently extended to September 8, 2023 and later on to December 8, 2023, after which the government of DRC made a decision not to renew it any further.
The mandate required the force to jointly plan and conduct operations with FARDC to defeat armed groups, support DRC in collaboration with humanitarian agencies, to continue humanitarian relief to population affected by armed groups and activities and support in the P-DDRCS.
“This deployment registered varied successes in the Joint area of operation. Critical, was the protection of civilians and the enforcement of the M23-FARDC ceasefire and further domination of zones threatened by Armed Groups,” added Major Gen Kiugu.
The force further helped in the opening of the main supply routes preventing direct threat on Goma and Sake towns resulting in the gradual return of internally displaced persons (IDPs to their rural homes especially in Sake, Kirolirwe, Kitchanga and Mweso, within Masisi territory and in Kibumba, Rumangabo, Kiwanja and Bunagana in Nyiragongo and Rutshuru territories.
Read:Does DR Congo have power to secure its borders?
“Unfortunately, the ceasefire lasted between March 7 to October 6, 2023, when it was breached following resumption of hostilities between M23 and FARDC,” he further added.
Major General Kiugu said the exit was to coincide with the handover of the mandate to Southern African Development Community (SADC troops’arrivalin Goma but that has not happened.
“Handing over to SADC was not planned but it was my desire that we hand over to them before we exit. We did not have the opportunity to discuss it and that is why it has not happened. That is why M23 has taken advantage of the gap to return to vacated areas,” he said.
He however called on regional and international actors to continue supporting the ongoing and future interventions geared towards finding lasting peace and stability in Eastern DRC.
“As North Kivu prepares to usher in the SADC Mission in DRC (SAMIDRC, we wish them every success,” said the force commander. The troops will be received by chief of defence forces General Francis Ogolla later on Thursday.