The East African Community (EAC) force began its departure from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) this Sunday, December 3. A first group of around a hundred Kenyan soldiers left Goma at 5:00 a.m. local time, bound for Nairobi.
On November 24, following a summit of the East African community in Tanzania, the DRC announced that it would not renew the mandate of the EAC force, present in North Kivu, which expires on December 8 when the force is highly criticized.
This is a first departure in line with what was announced after the EAC summit last November, the Kenyan side explains. The Kenyan army chief of staff visited Goma on Friday, November 2, where he congratulated his troops for their work in North Kivu. He called on them to remain “vigilant” as the force begins a “transition period”.
The first East African soldiers arrived in Goma just a year ago to face the resurgence of the M23 rebellion, but the regional force is widely criticized in the DRC. Kinshasa accuses her of failing to resolve the problem for which she was deployed and criticizes her for not having forced the rebels to lay down their arms.
Today, fighting continues between the M23, the Congolese army and self-defense militias. A Kenyan EAC soldier was also killed by shrapnel last October. To avoid leaving a security vacuum after the withdrawal of the East African force, Kinshasa is counting on the deployment of troops from the SADC, the Southern African Community, but their arrival has not yet materialized.
The timetable for the further withdrawal of EAC troops from the DRC has not been communicated.
Furthermore, Kinshasa also requested the “accelerated ” departure, from January 2024, of the UN mission, MONUSCO, present in the DRC since 1999. It includes around 14,000 blue helmets, but is also, accused of inefficiency.