DR Congo: despite upbeat rhetoric, EAC troops fail to rein in M23 rebels

DR Congo: despite upbeat rhetoric, EAC troops fail to rein in M23 rebels

The East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) troops set up in 2022 to thwart the advance of insurgents, and most notably the armed group M23, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has since December 2022 been proclaiming progress, but on the ground, the rebels are still present and still attacking civilians.

Created five months ago — on DRC’s request — to stop M23 rebels who seized swathes of territory in the eastern part of the country, the East African Community (EAC) force includes troops from Burundi, Kenya, South Sudan, and Uganda. But the upbeat announcements by the EACRF about the rebels quitting key strongholds and being replaced by its troops stand in sharp contrast with what’s happening on the ground, where the rebels remain at large and more than a million people displaced by their advance are still in limbo.

According to independent UN experts, as well as the United States and other Western countries, neighboring Rwanda — which has denied this claim — has supported the M23 in their fight against the Congolese army and armed groups to control towns and strategic axes.

The Tutsi-led rebel group has won a string of victories against the Congolese army and rival militias since emerging from dormancy in late 2021, advancing deep into North Kivu province. The EACRF organized a press trip to areas that have been declared liberated, but journalists who were able to visit and interview local residents present a different story. The interviewed residents frequently expressed concern to speak freely out of fear to be killed by the rebels in retaliation. “The M23 are still there. The arrival of the EAC soldiers has changed nothing, I am still paying taxes to the M23,” one resident said, adding that on the Congolese side, the border is still under rebel control.

Despite the EAC force’s promises, traffic on the road to the key city of Goma has still not resumed because it is reportedly still patrolled by the M23 fighters.


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