East African Community lays foundations for DRC multinational force

East African Community lays foundations for DRC multinational force

Kanako Mita and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Time

The East African Community (EAC) recently accepted the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) into this organization. EAC partners include Burundi, DRC, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. Therefore, with significant ethnic and religious divides existing in certain regions of the EAC – often more noticeable in certain nations or parts of the respective country – the EAC seeks to create a multinational military force to deal with the crisis in the eastern regions of the DRC.

The Islamist forces of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and Hutu militias are an example of how cross-border problems can escalate and impact neighboring countries. Originally, the ADF was firmly established in Uganda. Thus, despite the decrease in ADF terrorist attacks in Uganda, this Islamist movement is sowing chaos in certain parts of the DRC. Consequently, the Ugandan armed forces entered the eastern regions of the DRC to counterattack the regional threat from the ADF.

Many analysts are skeptical of the EAC’s ability to tackle the plethora of militias and terrorist groups that exist in the eastern regions of the DRC. After all, Kenya and other countries in the region are concerned about the endless instability in Somalia regarding the Islamists al-Shabaab (Al Shabab) which affects border areas with Kenya – and sometimes brutal terrorist attacks in Nairobi. Additionally, South Sudan is plagued by internal political intrigue and ethnic tension.

The Voice of America reports, “More than 120 rebel groups and militias are still operating in the eastern provinces of the DRC nearly two decades after the official end of civil wars in the country. The peacemaking effort has, since 2010, involved the largest peacekeeping force in the United Nations, with billions of dollars invested in the operation.

Therefore, skepticism abounds that if the UN peacekeeping force cannot contain the crisis despite the huge expense, what hope does the EAC have?

Yet, with cross-border militias and terrorist groups existing within the EAC, these nations have more reason to tackle the crisis in the eastern regions of the DRC. Furthermore, the military forces belonging to the proposed multinational EAC military force should be more committed to fighting the plethora of militias that exist in the DRC – rather than UN peacekeepers.

America and NATO countries failed to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan. America and NATO also could not contain the growing threat of ISIS (Islamic State – IS) before retiring. Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya have experienced many debacles. Therefore, skepticism should naturally concern any multinational force.

The EAC faces a difficult task. However, at worst, it will contribute to regional integration and highlight self-sufficiency. Unlike NATO in Afghanistan – several UN peacekeeping missions – the EAC countries have a greater incentive to tackle the destabilizing threat from the eastern parts of the DRC.

It will be very difficult for the EAC to contain and ultimately crush the various insurgencies, terrorist groups and cross-border forces that are ravaging the eastern regions of the DRC. Despite this, at least the EAC seeks an internal solution rather than leaving it to nations in distant lands.

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About Walter J. Leslie

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