East African bloc to deploy standby force to DRC but stand-off between Kagame, Tshisekedi remains

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Rwandan President Paul Kagame (R) and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) President Felix Tshisekedi.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame (R) and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) President Felix Tshisekedi.
  • The presidents of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo met in Nairobi for the first time since tensions between the regions escalated in recent years.
  • Reports claim the DRC doesn't want Rwanda to be part of the East African community standby force in the DRC.
  • The African Union has endorsed the decision to send troops to restore peace in eastern DRC.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame and his counterpart in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Félix Tshisekedi, met in Nairobi in Kenya on Monday as the East African Community (EAC) resolved to send a force to the eastern part of the DRC to stabilise the region and "secure peace".

As part of the EAC block's measures to calm simmering tensions between Kigali and Kinshasa, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta called the meeting, which the presidents of South Sudan, Burundi and Uganda also attended.

Rwanda and the DRC are neighbours, but tension between them is on the rise.

After the third "conclave", as the EAC dubbed it, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni tweeted: 

The problems affecting the region, like the crisis in Congo, need a collective approach from all regional members of the East African Community. We must insist on working together because these people have suffered a lot.

Since early May, Kagame and Tshisekedi have been trading counter-accusations, including allegations that each one of their governments was working with rebels to destabilise the other.

While there's no war, soldiers from the DRC and Rwanda have been found out of bounds in each other's territories. There have also been killings and economic sanctions have been put in place.

For one, Air Rwanda was banned from flying over DRC airspace, and last week, the DRC's Security Council advised Tshisekedi to cut trade ties with Rwanda.

Rwanda accused the United Nations of taking sides.

The meeting of heads of state came a day after military chiefs of all the seven EAC partners met and resolved that a regional force would be sent to eastern DRC, where Tshisekedi claimed Kagame was funding M23 rebels.

The communiqué from the meeting reads:

In doing so, the heads of state instructed that a regional force should, in cooperation with the military and administrative forces of the DRC, seek to stabilise and secure peace in the DRC.

The communiqué stated that the regional force would be under the command of Kenya. Reports in East Africa claim the DRC's standpoint is that Rwanda should not be part of the proposed deployment of military forces.

Last week, Tshisekedi pleaded that the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, which began yesterday, tell Kagame to "respect our territory" because "the people of DRC want peace, and seek security in their homeland".

In light of that, the EAC "appreciated the supremacy of the constitution of the DRC and committed to maintaining a unified and secure country" where the government should exercise "full territorial authority".

African Union Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat welcomed the resolutions from the EAC meeting and urged the immediate implementation of the resolutions to "restore peace in eastern DRC".

The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.
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