Africa We Want

KENYA DECLARES EACRF DEPLOYMENT IN DR CONGO ‘SUCCESSFUL’ MISSION

Kenya thinks the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) that served in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) until December last year was a successful mission. By Aggrey Mutambo

Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi during an interview at his office in Nairobi, Kenya on January 10, 2024. PHOTO | FILE | NMG

At a public lecture in Nairobi, Kenya’s Prime Cabinet Secretary and Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs Musalia Mudavadi defended the mission on failing to take down armed groups, arguing the mandate restricted the troops from taking sides.

But Mr Mudavadi also ran into the usual confusion on the definition of peacemaking, peacekeeping and enforcement, insisting the EACRF were peacekeepers.

“ The mandate that was given to the EACRF then was to have a one year of peacekeeping. And we finished our tour of duty as the EAC.

“ If you follow carefully, for the period that they were there, the tensions subsided. So we did our job as an East African Community peacekeeping intervention team,” Mr Mudavadi told a gathering of students and lecturers at the United States International University-Africa (USIU-Africa) in Nairobi.

EACRF deployed into the DRC in November 2022 for an initial six months, which was extended under the Status of Force Agreement to December last year.

They exited with complaints from Kinshasa, which charged that the EACRF had failed to target the M23 rebel group considered the biggest menace for the DRC in eastern Congo. Kinshasa would turn to the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), which has since deployed some 5,000 troops.

“ The mandate of the EACRF was peacekeeping. We don’t know, as yet, the full mandate of the SADC force. If, in the context of the DRC, SADC, the mandate becomes peacemaking, the level of engagement changes,” Mr Mudavadi argues.

“ The terminology is different. One might force you into engagement, the other is to make sure that you restrain people from engagement.”

The terminology around peace operations is never distinct and one mission routinely adopts various methods to achieve its end, the attempt to resolve the conflict.

However, the UN says peacemaking generally includes “ measures to address conflicts in progress and usually involves diplomatic action to bring hostile parties to a negotiated agreement,” usually conducted by special envoys, governments, groups of states, regional organisations or the United Nations.

Peacekeeping often involves the implementation of a ceasefire or peace agreement by preventing a clash of warring factions, for example. It is not to be confused with peace enforcement, which often involves the application of a range of coercive measures, including the use of military force, often on the authorisation of the UN Security Council.

Peacekeepers are often allowed to use force to defend themselves, property or civilians especially when the host State is unable to provide adequate security.

EACRF, according to its publicised mandate, was to jointly plan and conduct operations with the Congolese army (FARDC) “ to defeat the armed groups elements in the Eastern DRC,” keep the law and order and support in the Disarmament, Demobilisation, Community Recovery and Stabilisation Programme (P-DDRCS).

At the height of their operations, EACRF routinely came under criticism for not firing on M23 whom Kinshasa claimed had refused to withdraw from certain territories.

EACRF argued it wasn’t mandated to fight, even though the EAC had mandated it to use force on those who refuse to disarm or target civilians. It registered one lost life after a Kenyan soldier was targeted in a mortar fire late in November.

However, EACRF also reported minimal clashes between the FARDC and M23, or other armed groups, registering the longest, relative, ceasefire, yet between the two sides. The clashes have since escalated, however.

For the SADC force (SAMIDRC), the troops will, among other things be mandated to support the DRC in “ neutralising negative forces and armed groups in eastern DRC to restore and maintain peace and security and thereby create a secure environment.”

The agreement between Kinshasa and SADC also permits the troops to support the Congolese army FARDC with ground, air and maritime support and to “ provide logistics to strengthen FARDC’s capabilities to neutralise negative forces and armed groups in the eastern DRC.”

There are more than 120 armed groups in the DRC and the SAMIDRC is supposed to target all of those who refuse to lay down arms and choose to fight the FARDC.

Mr Mudavadi spoke of Kenya’s ‘grand strategy in a changing world,’ his first local forum to explain Kenya’s foreign policy.

He did say Kenya wants an expanded East African Community and specifically that the DRC was an important part of it.

“ I may summarise our foreign policy philosophy as that of being global in scope, but Pan-African in nature,” he said.

“ We adhere to a globally relevant Pan-Africanism for mutually beneficial relations where Kenya plays a leading role in an Africa that is willing and equipped to negotiate for its rightful space in the international arena.”

Nairobi, he said will neither face East nor West but “ endeavour to be at peace with other States and seek to establish mutually beneficial ties with as many States as possible in the world.

“ The zero-sum Cold War approach has to be replaced with cooperation, mutual respect, and collective security.”

Author: MANZI
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