East Africa force starts withdrawal from DRC
Clashes have moved closer to Goma threatening to derail upcoming elections
Goma — Scores of Kenyan troops flew out of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Sunday, marking the start of the withdrawal of a regional force after Kinshasa did not renew its mandate to help fight M23 rebels.
DRC President Felix Tshisekedi has repeatedly criticised the East African Community force since its deployment in November 2022 for failing to enforce the withdrawal of the M23, a rebel group claiming to represent the interests of ethnic Tutsis.
The presidency announced it would not be renewing its mandate after an EAC summit in late November.
With the mandate due to expire on December 8, Kenyan soldiers were seen lining up on Sunday to board two aeroplanes on the tarmac of the airport in the eastern DRC city of Goma, a reporter said.
A different force from the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) is due to replace the EAC troops, but the date of its arrival and the length of its mandate have not been announced.
The strategic reshuffling highlights the difficulty of stabilising the eastern provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, where the DRC declared a state of siege two years ago to address worsening militia violence.
Clashes with the M23 rebels have moved closer to Goma in recent weeks, deepening concerns the insecurity could derail presidential, legislative, and regional elections on December 20.
Conflict has simmered and periodically flared up since the end of two regional wars between 1996 and 2003. Recent escalations in the bloodshed have pushed the number of people displaced within the DRC to a record 6.9-million people, mostly in the east, according to the International Organisation for Migration.
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