The withdrawal of Ugandan troops of the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) from the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) took effect after the expiration of its mandate on December 8 last year. This withdrawal follows Kinshasa’s refusal to renew the mandate of the Force, a decision notified at the EAC summit on November 24.
Initially deployed in November 2022 to support peace efforts and monitor the withdrawal of M23 rebels from the positions they had occupied in North Kivu province, the regional force completed its withdrawal, planning to cede its positions to troops of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) by the end of December.
The departure of Kenyan troops on December 3 marked the start of this process, followed by other contingents. The latest is that of the Ugandan troops, nevertheless considered one of the formidable armed forces in the region. In September, Ugandan strikes killed around 200 ADF rebels in eastern DRC.
In view of these considerations, the withdrawal of the CAE force raises concerns about the security vacuum in this already fragile region. Persistent tensions between DR Congo and Rwanda, with accusations of Rwandan support for the M23 rebels, add a delicate dimension to this situation. Rwanda categorically rejects these accusations, saying that the rebellion is the internal affairs of the DRC.
Eastern DRC remains a home to more than 130 armed groups, including the Rwandan FDLR, a tragic reminder of the 1994 genocide. The succession of regional troops by SADC raises expectations about how this transition will be managed in a context of political and security complexities.