East African nations will deploy a regional force to the conflict-ridden eastern part of Democratic Republic of Congo, where renewed fighting is threatening to engulf neighboring countries.
Diplomatic tensions between Congo and Rwanda have ratcheted up in recent weeks, with the giant resource-rich nation accusing its tiny neighbor of backing the rebel M23 group that’s been clashing with Congolese forces near their joint border.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is chairman of the regional East African Community bloc, called for “an immediate cessation of all hostilities in eastern DRC and for all armed groups, both foreign and local, to lay down arms immediately and unconditionally and to commit to a political process,” according to a statement from his office.
Commanders of respective armies will meet on June 19 to prepare for the deployment of the regional force to Congo’s Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu provinces to “stabilise the zone and enforce peace in support of the DRC security forces and in close coordination” with the United Nations’ peacekeeping mission, he said.
The force will also help local provincial authorities in a disarmament programme, according to the statement. Kenyatta convened talks with presidents of Congo, Uganda and Burundi in April, with Rwandan President Paul Kagame represented at the meeting by his foreign minister.
Uganda said it had paused its hunt for Islamic State-linked militants holed up in eastern Congo in response to Kenyatta’s call. Ugandan troops have been pursuing the Allied Democratic Front rebels, who have claimed responsibility for a spate of bombings in the country last year.
- A Blomberg report