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East African Leaders Announce Conclusion of Regional Force Mandate in DR Congo



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During a summit in Tanzania on Friday, East African leaders revealed that the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has opted not to renew the mandate of a regional force deployed to address unrest in the volatile eastern part of the country. The East African Community (EAC) initially dispatched troops to the troubled region in November of the previous year in response to the resurgence of the M23 rebel group.

A statement issued after the summit disclosed that the EAC “noted that the DRC will not extend the mandate of the EAC regional force beyond 8th December 2023.” The leaders have directed defense force chiefs from the EAC and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to convene before December 8, “submitting their recommendations on the way forward to the defense ministers for onward transmission to the summit for consideration.”

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While the future of the deployment had been uncertain due to criticism from DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi, the EAC had previously decided in September to maintain troops on the ground until the coming month. The eastern part of the DR Congo has been plagued by numerous armed groups, a legacy of the regional wars in the 1990s and 2000s.

The M23, led by Tutsi factions, resumed armed activities in late 2021, seizing territory in North Kivu province. Over the past six weeks, according to the United Nations, 450,000 people have been displaced, with 200,000 cut off from humanitarian aid. The DRC, home to nearly seven million displaced people, has accused neighboring Rwanda, an EAC member, of supporting the rebels—a claim Rwanda denies. The United States, along with other Western countries and UN experts, has also asserted that Rwanda is backing the rebels.

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In addition to the developments in the DR Congo, the EAC admitted Somalia to its grouping during Friday’s summit, making Somalia the ninth member alongside Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.

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