The East African Community (EAC) has reaffirmed its commitment to ongoing efforts to restore peace and stability to the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

EAC Secretary General Hon. (Dr.) Peter Mathuki said that the lessons learned from the deployment of the EAC Regional Force (EACRF) present opportunities for the Community to strengthen its role as the primary guarantor of peace and security in the region through the Institutionalisation of the EACRF’s achievements.

Dr. Mathuki said that the EAC will seek to strengthen its ability to respond to peace and security challenges of Partner States by the reinforcement of the successes of the regional force through the formulation of appropriate policies, guidelines, frameworks and instruments pegged on best global practices.

“The development of key instruments will further enable the EAC to respond more effectively to regional peace and security challenges through holistic conflict management,” said Dr. Mathuki.

“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, Major. 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, enable 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.