The East African Community (EAC) Regional Force has commenced its withdrawal from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), with the Kenyan contingent departing from Goma airport in the eastern North Kivu province on Sunday morning. This move follows the DRC authorities’ decision to consider the regional force ineffective.
The EAC officially declared, after a summit on Nov. 25, that the DRC “would not renew the mandate of the regional force beyond Dec. 8, 2023.” Since November 2022, the regional force, comprising elements from Uganda, Burundi, and South Sudan, has been stationed in the eastern part of the DRC in response to renewed conflicts between the DRC military and the March 23 Movement (M23) rebels.
Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi plans to replace the EAC Regional Force with a force deployed by the Southern African Development Community (SADC). However, details regarding this deployment remain unclear, with indications of a deployment within a few months but lacking specific clarification.
The timing of the EAC Regional Force withdrawal coincides with the DRC’s preparations for presidential, legislative, and local elections scheduled for Dec. 20. Notably, several areas in eastern DRC, still under rebel occupation, will be excluded from these elections due to inadequate voter registration.