East African Community Regional Force Faces Uphill Battle in Eastern DRC
To quell the resurgence of the M23 rebel group and bring stability to the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) was deployed six months ago. However, the mission has encountered formidable challenges, raising doubts about its effectiveness.
Marking a historic moment as the EAC’s first deployment of troops within a member state since its reformation, the EACRF was granted a peace enforcement mandate to neutralize the M23 and restore order in the occupied territories. Yet, as the initial mandate period nears its end, concerns about the force’s impact persist.
The success of the EACRF hinges on the effectiveness of the DRC’s Armed Forces (FARDC), as they are expected to assume responsibility after the mission concludes. Regrettably, the FARDC’s current shortcomings in holding territory and protecting civilians from not only the M23 but also other armed groups pose a significant hurdle to achieving lasting peace.
Additionally, over 120 armed groups in the region further complicate the mission. While the EACRF primarily targets the M23, the proliferation of these groups jeopardizes long-term stability in the eastern DRC. Overcoming the challenges multiple armed factions present remains a daunting task for the regional force.
Internal politics within the EAC have also impacted the mission. Tensions between the DRC and neighbouring Rwanda have strained relations and hindered cooperation within the community. The resulting lack of trust undermines decision-making processes, impeding the effectiveness of the EACRF.
Moreover, competing interests among the troop-contributing countries pose a risk to the mission’s success. Each member state has a history of intervention in the DRC, potentially using the EACRF to further their own agendas. Aligning these interests and fostering collaboration is crucial to achieving the mission’s goals.
Financial sustainability remains a challenge as well. With each contributing country responsible for funding its troops, late payments and limited external support raise concerns about the long-term feasibility of the mission.
Lastly, a parallel political process must accompany the military operation to achieve lasting peace. Regrettably, the DRC government’s refusal to engage in talks with the M23 has hindered progress, undermining the potential for a comprehensive solution.
As the EACRF enters a critical phase, doubts persist about its effectiveness in addressing the security situation in the eastern DRC. The force finds itself caught between political dynamics, divergent interests, funding constraints, and the need for both military and political strategies. The mission’s fate hangs in the balance, posing challenges to the credibility of the EAC and raising questions about the regional force’s ability to achieve its objectives.