The US government applauded Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta for arranging a meeting between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo last week, saying it may help reduce tensions between the two neighbors.
The East African Community Conclave’s Nairobi Initiative on the DRC was discussed as the best strategy to stop violent conflict in the unstable east of the country during a phone discussion between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and President Kenyatta on Thursday.
In the phone chat, according to US State Department spokesman Ned Price, “Secretary Blinken expressed his appreciation for the Nairobi process, which has brought together the leadership of DR Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, South Sudan, and Tanzania. The Secretary noted these heads of state meetings are instrumental for facilitating the de-escalation of regional tensions, and in particular between DR Congo and Rwanda.”
As chairman of the EAC, President Kenyatta’s agenda includes the Nairobi Initiative, which aims to establish a sense of durable peace in eastern DR Congo.
Two weeks ago, following an agreement on the Concept of Operations for troop contributions to the force by EAC member states, regional leaders backed President Kenyatta’s proposal to deploy the East African Standby Force (EASF), a regional force.
The precise deployment date has not yet been determined, but according to a report from the Nairobi conference, information will be made public early in July.
However, the conference was preceded by a public dispute between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with Kinshasa accusing Kigali of backing the M23 militia, which is responsible for the violent conflict.
Kigali rejected the allegations, but their first in-person encounter in Nairobi, Kenya, between presidents Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo was regarded as a key icebreaker.
The people and lawmakers in the DRC have raised concerns over the planned deployment of peace forces. They claimed that the UN Mission (Monusco) and other already-existing initiatives will be replicated by the East Africa Standby Force (EASF).
The US has now joined the UN and African Union in supporting the Nairobi Process, which is viewed as the first such open action by regional nations to resolve the long-running violence in the DRC.
Kenya on Thursday refrained from voting to renew sanctions against the DRC, including a ban on certain types of armaments. Ultimately, resolution 2641/2022 was adopted, although Kenya objected to the preservation of a provision requiring the DRC army to inform the sanctions committee of the precise weapons it wants to purchase.
Dr. Martin Kimani, Kenya’s Permanent Representative to the UN, stated: “Kenya voted to abstain in solidarity with the DRC in their appeal for a full lifting of the notification requirement in respect to arms and the provision of assistance and training on military activities.”
According to him, the notice requirement is an unnecessary disclosure that helps armed opposition organisations.