East African regional force begins withdrawal from DRC

A KDF soldier serving under the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) patrols in Kisigari, in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on April 18, 2023.

Goma, DR Congo

The East African Community Regional Force (EAC-RF) began its withdrawal from the Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday morning, an AFP team observed, after Kinshasa did not renew its mandate.

A first group of around 100 Kenyan soldiers from the force - which also includes Ugandan, Burundian and South Sudanese soldiers - left the region from Goma airport bound for Nairobi, according to an EAC-RF spokesman on the ground who did not provide more detail on further withdrawals.

Their plane took off shortly after 05:00 am (03:00 GMT).

The East African Community (EAC) first deployed troops in the violence-plagued region in November last year after the resurgence of the M23 rebel group.

M23 rebels in eastern DRC conquer other territories

At the time, the Congolese authorities invited the EAC to deploy its forces to free the areas conquered by the rebels.

But the future of the deployment was thrown into doubt after DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi accused the force of cohabiting with the rebels rather than forcing them to lay down arms.

Following an EAC summit on November 25, the East African Community announced that the DRC "would not renew the mandate of the regional force beyond 8 December 2023".