Chiefs of Defence Forces from the East African Community (EAC) member states have kicked off discussions on modalities of establishing a regional force that will help restore peace and security in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In the meeting held on Monday in Goma, Kenya’s CDF General Robert Kibochi, who is also the Chairman of the Committee of Chiefs of Defence Forces of the EAC Partner States, told the meeting that the peace and security agenda is a critical pillar in anchoring the EAC’s integration process.
Security and stability in eastern DRC will provide a conducive environment upon which all other aspects of regional integration shall thrive, he said.
“We must therefore collectively as a region support efforts to address security challenges and restore peace and stability in the eastern DRC to allow our people to exploit the full potential offered by regional integration,” General Kibochi said.
He called for the adoption of options that ensure the force remains stable and with a clear coordination mechanism with other actors to guarantee synergy in the operation.
Kibochi further noted that Congo’s recent admission to the EAC expands the community from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic.
“This will not only expand the community’s market by an additional 90 million people but will also enhance the regional economic and social cooperation and allow citizens to share experiences. For this aspiration to be fully realised, peace and security is of utmost importance and this is the very reason we are meeting in Goma today,” he added.
The meeting by the Chiefs is a follow-up of the Heads of States Conclave held in Nairobi on April 21, 2022, that accented to the immediate establishment of a regional force to help contain, and where necessary fight, the negative forces in eastern DRC.
DRC’s Chief of General Staff, Célestin Mbala Munsense, said the country is willing to restore peace in eastern DRC with the help of the EAC.
“It is on the basis of the recommendation by the EAC Heads of State Conclave in Nairobi that the President of DRC instructed me to invite you to this strategic meeting to implement the Military/Security Enforcement Track,” he said.
EAC Heads of State have called upon the local armed groups to lay down their arms, cease hostilities and return to their countries of origin.
Last year, Kenya sent a contingent from its Quick Reaction Force to the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Congo (MONUSCO) to help stabilise eastern DR Congo, where many armed groups have killed and displaced civilians.
Another set of troops is already conducting its pre-deployment training at Kangaita camp in Mt Kenya, Nanyuki.