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EAC Heads of State to meet in Bujumbura over DR Congo crisis

EAC Heads of State to meet in Bujumbura over DR Congo crisis

The Heads of States of the East African Community will meet on Saturday, February 4, in Bujumbura, Burundi, to evaluate the security situation in eastern DR Congo, where the bloc deployed a joint force in November 2022.

The leaders will be hosted by Burundi’s President Evariste Ndayishimiye, who is also the chair of the EAC.

The 20th Extra-Ordinary Summit of EAC Heads of State comes at a time when there is an increasingly worsening security situation in North Kivu province where government forces and their militia allies are battling M23 rebels.

It also follows an urgent meeting between EAC technical advisors and Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya’s former president and facilitator of the EAC-led peace process for eastern DR Congo.

The leaders will discuss the way forward for the situation, the EAC secretariat tweeted on Friday.

The Congolese government has been in the spotlight recently, due to its unilateral decision to deport three Rwandan military officers who were serving the regional force.

On February 1, the EAC Secretary General, Peter Mathuki, wrote to the Congolese Prime Minister Christophe Lutundula, seeking clarification on the deportation of the officers who enjoyed immunity.

Kinshasa also faces accusations of abandoning the Luanda agreement which called for the disarmament of militias like the FDLR, among other things.

It is understood that the M23 rebels are the only party that had begun implementing the Luanda agreement, with a gradual withdrawal.

But fighting resumed on January 25 especially in Bwiza and Kitchanga localities of North Kivu province after the Congolese government coalition forces attacked the rebels. Two days later, the rebels captured Kitchanga and continued advancing.

Kenyatta expressed concerns about the broken cessation of hostilities, as called for in the Luanda and Nairobi peace processes.

The biggest roadblock to peace in the region is Kinshasa’s refusal to implement existing roadmaps including the Luanda roadmap and the Nairobi process which demanded that Kinshasa disarm all armed groups and engage in dialogue in a bid to find a sustainable solution to the crisis in eastern DR Congo.

Besides Kinshasa aligning itself with FDLR – a Rwandan genocidal militia formed by remnants of the perpetrators of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi – it also continued to alienate the M23 rebels, thereby reducing the prospects for peace. The FDLR which is now integrated in the Congolese army poses an existential security threat to Rwanda and the region.

Tensions between DR Congo and Rwanda have also risen, following the successive violation of Rwandan airspace by Congolese warplanes. On January 24, a Sukhoi-25 fighter jet from DR Congo violated Rwanda’s airspace for the third time, in three months – forcing Rwanda to take “defensive measures,” Kigali said.

The first such violation of Rwandan airspace happened at around 11:20am, on November 7, when a Sukhoi-25 fighter jet of the Congolese armed forces briefly landed at Rubavu airport, in western Rwanda, before it returned to DR Congo.

EAC Heads of State to meet in Bujumbura over DR Congo crisis
EAC Heads of State to meet in Bujumbura over DR Congo crisis

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