The Force Commander (FC) East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) Major General Aphaxard Muthuri Kiugu on Friday, 26th January, 2024 handed over the East African Community (EAC) Flag and other mission instruments to the Secretary-General (SG) Hon. Dr. Peter Mathuki at the EAC Headquarters, in Arusha, Tanzania.
The historic handover ceremony marks the closure of the year long, inaugural EAC military intervention in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The ceremony comes following the expiry of the EACRF Mission Mandate and the withdrawal of troops on 21 December 2023.
During the ceremony, the SG commended EACRF for putting their lives on the line on behalf of the people of the EAC. “I know the terrain and theatre you were operating in. You answered the call to pursue peace for the security and safety of the people of East Africa.”
He acknoweledged that the commitment of the EAC to peace and security was evident through the full deployment in theatre. Further, notable succeses of the mission include the protection of civilians and support to humanitarian agencies to access the population in need of help as well as opening up roads in the area.
The Force Commander noted that the deployment of EACRF troops from Burundi, Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda to the Joint Operation Area was critical to protect civilians from the Armed Groups operating in Eastern DRC.
He underscored that EACRF’s mandate was successfully implemented in line with the strategic guidance of the EAC Heads of State and operational directives by CDF/Ss. Additionally he stated that the measure of the Force’s mandate delivery is pronounced through the professionalism of the soldiers, and the evidence of the mission successes.
Through the deployment of EACRF, operational imperatives were met, notably, protection of Civilians through the facilitation of the M23-FARDC ceasefire, domination of zones threatened by Armed Groups, and the partial opening of Main Supply Routes within the Joint Operation Area are some of the historic milestones achieved.
“The exit of EACRF does not in any way imply end of the desire for lasting peace and stability in Eastern DRC, but should inspire more regional efforts to address the current conflict including transnational threats of terrorism, proliferation of small arms and light weapons and cross border conflicts,” the FC added.
He thanked the EAC strategic leadership for their unwavering support and guidance to the Regional Force during the mission in Eastern DRC. “Equally, I applaud the high level of professionalism exhibited by various Contingents considering their diverse backgrounds. This portrays the region’s military capacity, capability, and commitment to fully undertake Peace Support Missions regionally and around the globe” said the FC.
Also present during the ceremony were Brigadier General Gregoire Ndorarigonya – Deputy Force Commander Administration and Logistics (Burundi), Brigadier General Michael Kibuye – Chief of Staff (Uganda), Lt Col Gabriel Bulo (South Sudan Contingent Commander), Lt Col Gideon Koech – Deputy Operations Officer, Defence Liaison Officers, EAC Secretariat and other EACRF Staff Officers.