We are on the right track in tackling DRC crisis: EAC leaders

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NAIROBI, Kenya - Kenya’s former president Uhuru Kenyatta and facilitator of the East African Community (EAC) have expressed hope that peace can be restored in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Speaking in Nairobi when he joined other EAC leaders to launch the third round of the inter-Congolese dialogue on Monday, in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

The peace talks have brought together the Kinshasa government and multiple armed groups based in the eastern Congolese provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu, and Ituri.

Other stakeholders at the forum were the African Union and the United Nations Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region, Huan Xia.

Presidents William Ruto (Kenya), Evariste Ndayishimiye (Burundi), Felix Tshisekedi (DRC), Paul Kagame (Rwanda), Yoweri Museveni (Uganda), Samia Suluhu (Tanzania) and former President Uhuru Kenyatta who is the facilitator of the Nairobi process, agreed to combine the ongoing attempts to negotiate peace through a political process.

The EAC heads of state however warned they were also considering military action targeting armed groups that have declined to heed calls for a de-escalation of hostilities.

The military action will be conducted by the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF), whose troops are still being deployed to eastern DR Congo. So far, only Kenya and Burundi have fully deployed their troops, with Uganda and South Sudan expected to join soon.

The force is under the command of Kenya’s Major General Jeff Nyagah and two deputies from the DRC, including Brigadier General Emmanuel Kaputa.

“We are cognizant of the high expectations the region and international community have in this process. I am appealing to all partners to commit to supporting initiatives aimed at promoting peace and consolidating stability in the region,” EAC Chairman and Burundi President Ndayishimiye said.

Kenya’s head of state Ruto said the instability in eastern DRC was limiting the potential of the EAC region not only in terms of trade and investment but also in degrading the dignity of the Congolese people through suffering and death.

He assured the Congolese leadership and citizens that Kenya would stay the course until the job is done.

“So long as DRC knows no peace, prospects for prosperity for the rest of the EAC and Africa will remain dim. This is why we have taken a decisive position as heads of state of the EAC to do everything possible to find a lasting peaceful solution to this conflict, and we will not relent.”

The Ugandan president said that the conflict to the presence of illegal guns held by foreign armed groups, including the Allied Defence Forces (Uganda), Interahamwe (Rwanda), and internal Congolese groups.

Museveni adds “These groups can easily be defeated if we harmonize. The operation which has been going on for about a year now and conducted by the Congolese army (FARDC) and the Ugandan army in three sectors of North Kivu and Ituri has shown that we have the capacity to deal with these groups in spite of the difficult terrain, the forests, and so on. We can deal with these groups.”

The week-long meeting in Nairobi is aimed at creating an environment conducive to the disarmament of armed groups, consolidating support for local communities in the peace process, and creating mechanisms for voluntary repatriation and settlement of internally displaced persons and refugees.

GAROWE ONLINE

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