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East Africa regional force mandate in DR Congo ends

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East Africa regional force mandate in DR Congo ends

The East African Community (EAC) regional force will complete its withdrawal from the Democratic Republic of Congo today.

The seven-nation EAC initially deployed troops to the eastern part of the country in November 2022, at the invitation of authorities from the DR Congo, to liberate areas taken by the resurgent Movement of 23 March (M23) rebel group. The M23 rebels re-emerged in North Kivu in late 2021, seizing large areas of the province. The group claims to represent the interest of Congolese Tutsis, allegedly with backing from the neighboring Rwanda, another EAC member.

Support for the EAC deployment dwindled after DRC President Felix Tshisekedi criticized the EAC force and accused it of cohabitating with the rebels instead of forcing them to lay down arms.

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Tshisekedi has expressed interest in replacing EAC soldiers with security forces from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), however the SADC force has failed so far to materialize and will likely struggle to stabilize the region ahead of general elections slated for December 20. As violent clashes move closer to Goma, in eastern DRC, nearly a million voters will be disenfranchised. Opposition candidates have raised concerns that DRC’s electoral commission will be biased in favor of Tshisekedi, who is expected to win a second five-year term.

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