President Kiir supports ceasefire in DR Congo, EAC to deploy forces

President Kiir supports ceasefire in DR Congo, EAC to deploy forces
President Salva Kiir signs attendance book at State House Nairobi in the presence of President Uhuru Kenyatta.[Photo: State House-Kenya]

President Salva Kiir and six other regional heads of state ordered for immediate ceasefire in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo).

The East Africa Community leaders also want immediate cessation of hostilities, including withdrawal from recently taken positions by both Rwanda and Congo.

“In doing so, the political process should be intensified by all parties in order to allow the citizens of the DRC to feel safe and secure and be able to pick up and continue their respective social, cultural, and economic activities,” read part of a communique signed by seven heads of states, including Kiir.

These were the major decisions taken by a meeting of the EAC heads of state to take stock of the peace and security situation in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The meeting was chaired by President of the Republic of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, who is also the EAC chairman.

The seven states agreed to send a joint force to DRC for swift and lasting solution to the conflict in the north and south Kivu as well as Ituri provinces.

“They appreciated the supremacy of the constitution of the DRC and committed to maintaining a unified and secure country, with coherence and credible institutions of central government exercising full territorial authority and recognizing that peaceful means are the best way to resolve conflicts,” the communique further read. 

The summit was attended by His Excellency Yoweri Museveni, President Of The Republic Of Uganda; His Excellency Paul Kagame, President Of The Republic Of Rwanda; His Excellency Salva Kiir Mayardit, President of the Republic of South Sudan; His Excellency Felix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo, President Of The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); and His Excellency Evariste Ndayishimiye, President Of The Republic Of Burundi. The Head of State of the United Republic of Tanzania was represented by H.E. Amb. Dr. John Steven Simbachawene, High Commissioner of Tanzania to Kenya.

Agreements set

The conclave agreed and reinforced that trust and confidence-building, cessation of hostilities, unconditional ceasefire, participation in the political processes in the country, prioritisation and participation in the country’s development, citizenship, presence of foreign negative elements, the fate of combatants during reintegration and status of refugees and internally displaced persons are among critical issues that require concerted, urgent and durable resolution. 

The Heads of State instructed that the regional force should, in cooperation with the military and administrative forces of the DRC, seek to stabilise and secure the peace in the DRC. The regional force should also cooperate in the implementation of the disarmament and demobilisation process.

The meeting comes as heavy fighting revives decades-old animosities between Kinshasa and Kigali, with the DRC blaming neighbouring Rwanda for the recent resurgence of the M23 militia.

Rwanda has repeatedly denied backing the rebels, while both countries have accused each other of carrying out cross-border shelling.

After weeks of sabre-rattling, the leaders of six of the seven nations in the East African Community (EAC) met in the Kenyan capital Nairobi to discuss the way forward.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame and DRC President Felix Tshisekedi joined the leaders of Burundi, Kenya, South Sudan, and Uganda, as well as Tanzania’s ambassador to Nairobi.

“The crisis in Congo needs a collective approach from all regional members of the East African Community,” Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said on Twitter after the meeting got underway.

“We must insist on working together because these people have suffered a lot,” said Museveni.

His government has sent in troops to help Congolese forces fight the Allied Democratic Forces, a militia group blamed for thousands of deaths in eastern Congo and a string of bombings in the Ugandan capital, Kampala.

Call for British pressure

After M23 rebels captured the border town of Bunagana, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta called for the deployment of a regional EAC force in eastern DRC to restore peace, but Kinshasa said it would not accept Rwanda’s participation in the operation.

Tshisekedi has accused Rwanda of seeking “to occupy our land, rich in gold, coltan, and cobalt, for their own exploitation and profit” and urged the international community to condemn Kigali.

He has urged Britain, in particular, to “pressure Rwanda to withdraw its troops from our land”, noting London’s controversial agreement to send asylum seekers to Kigali.

“Given the UK’s recent $150 million immigration deal struck with Rwanda, we hope that Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be able to leverage his influence,” Tshisekedi said.

Rwanda is due to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting this week.

The mineral-rich DRC is struggling to contain dozens of armed groups in the east of the vast nation, many of which are a legacy of two regional wars a quarter of a century ago.