ARUSHA: THE East African Community (EAC) has reaffirmed its commitment to the ongoing efforts to restore peace and stability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
EAC Secretary General Dr Peter Mathuki said that the lessons learnt from the deployment of the EAC Regional Force (EACRF) presents opportunities for the bloc to strengthen its role as the primary guarantor of peace and security in the region through the institutionalisation of the force’s achievements.
Dr Mathuki said that through the formulation of appropriate policies, guidelines, frameworks and instruments pegged on best global practices the EAC will seek to strengthen its ability to respond to peace and security challenges of partner states.
He added: “The development of key instruments will further enable the EAC to respond more effectively to regional peace and security
“From this experience, the EAC has proven to be adaptable to handle security challenges and can be relied on as an able partner to respond to complex conflicts affecting the region.”
Dr Mathuki was speaking at the EAC Headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania during the hand-over ceremony of the flag by the EACRF following the end of the peacekeeping mission to DRC on 21st December 2023.
The Secretary General hailed the EACRF members as gallant soldiers who had put their lives on the line for the sake of ordinary East Africans residing in eastern DRC, adding that the peacekeeping mission had been highly successful despite some challenges it faced on the ground.
The EACRF Force Commander, Major General Aphaxard Muthuri Kiugu, handed over the flag to the Secretary General.
Speaking at the event, Maj Gen Kiugu said that the mission had registered various successes key among them the protection of civilians, a core function of the mandate that was achieved through the facilitation of the ceasefire between the DRC Armed Forces (FARDC) and the M23 rebel group.
Maj Gen Kiugu said that the partial opening of the main supply routes of Goma-Rutshuru, Bunagana-Rutshuru, Sake-Mushake and Sake-Kitchanga-Mweso, enables the free movement of goods and persons.
“Further, EACRF deployment helped defuse direct physical threat to Goma and Sake towns,” said the Force Commander.
“The sum effect of these actions was the gradual return of internally displaced persons to their homes, especially in Sake, Kirolirwe, Kitchanga and Mweso, within Masisi territory and in Kibumba, Rumangabo, Kiwanja and Bunagana in Nyiragongo and Rutshuru territories.
Maj Gen Kiugu further said that humanitarian agencies’ activities increased with close collaboration between EACRF and humanitarian organisations such as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Committee of the Red Cross/Crescent (ICRC).
“Additionally, EACRF through coordinated Civil-Military Cooperation activities was able to offer limited humanitarian assistance to the local population in their areas of deployment, including medical care and casualty evacuation.
Also present at the ceremony were the EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of Customs, Trade and Monetary Affairs, Ms Annette Ssemuwemba, the Counsel to the Community, Dr Anthony Kafumbe, EACRF Staff Officers and Contingent Commanders and the partner states’ Defence Liaison Officers at the EAC Secretariat.