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confidentially speaking

The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 3rd November 2022

Kenya leads mission to Congo changing regional security balance

Blue Lines

The disjointed international response to the fighting between the Congolese army and the Tutsi-led M23 militia in eastern Congo-Kinshasa has shown where influence lies in the evolving regional order. The little traction that has been generated towards peace talks has been powered by Angola's President Joao Lourenço and Kenya's ex-President Uhuru Kenyatta. The United States and the west more broadly have been largely ignored.

As Africa Confidential went to press, member states of the East African Community had agreed to send a joint military force to eastern Congo-K. Kenya will command the force, which will also include soldiers from Burundi, Uganda and South Sudan. This is a bold move for an organisation that has hitherto been little more than a trading bloc. It may look to the experience of Ecowas in Sierra Leone and Liberia, some two decades ago.

An EAC mission has clear advantages to a western-led intervention. Two problems in the UN missions in Mali and Congo-K, both of which have faced street protests, are that they underplay political dialogue and focus instead on supporting state institutions. While EAC members have strained relations with each other, a regional African response is less likely to be dragged into domestic political fights, stir colonial grievances, or geopolitical battles. The EAC forces are also allowed to engage armed groups, an authority the UN usually lacks.