Kenya in Charge of the EAC Mission to the DRC

The protracted conflict in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), namely the Ituri, North and South Kivu provinces, may be traced at least all the way back to 1994 and to the consequences of the Rwandan Genocide. It has been impacting the dynamics and relations in the Great Lakes region since. In April 2022, the DRC joined the EAC [1], not only enriching the Community with more than 100 million people and vast market, but also sharing the burden of the conflict in the DRC’s eastern provinces.

After a series of incidents between Rwanda and DRC and multiple EAC’s talks hosted by Kenyan former president Uhuru Kenyatta, the EAC agreed in June 2022 on formation of regional mission to DRC. [2] The Kenyan President, William Ruto, followed the steps of his predecessor in this regard and in November 2022 officially sent off the Kenyan troops into the mission. [3]

Origins of the Current Regional Tensions and EAC Peace Efforts

The first talks upon the possible deployment of EAC-led mission to combat the insurgents in eastern DRC were held in May 2022, when Kenya hosted an EAC summit. These talks were interrupted by the March 23 Movement (M23) uprising and seizure of the town Bunagana. [4] Up until then, it was believed that this insurgent group was defeated in 2013. Therefore, such operational success came as a surprise, both domestically and regionally. The Congolese President, Félix Tshisekedi, accused [5] his Rwandan counterpart of backing the insurgency and deployment of Rwandan special forces in disguise on Congolese soil. [6]

These accusations go vice versa. Rwanda accuses DRC of supporting the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) [6], also operating in eastern DRC, based on ethnic Hutus, who fled to DRC from Rwanda after 1994 Genocide against Tutsis, and who are carrying out attacks against ethnic Tutsis or even cross-border attacks against Rwandan civilians in Goma region. [7] These tensions culminated on June 17, 2022, when Rwandan Police shot a Congolese soldier who illegally crossed the border in the Goma region and, according to official statement by the Rwandan Ministry of Defence, started shooting not only at Rwandan security personnel but also at civilians. [8]

Border Crossing between Rwanda (Gisenyi) and DRC (Goma). Source:

This heightened situation was dealt with in June 2022 EAC summit in Nairobi, where the member states’ representatives (Presidents from Kenya, DRC, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan and a Tanzanian Ambassador to Kenya) agreed upon the formation of regional mission under the EAC umbrella. [9] The main issue that remained to be resolved, was the Rwandan participation in the mission – President Tshisekedi strongly opposed any form of Rwandan engagement on Congolese soil and Rwanda did not agree to any form of regional force excluding Rwandan participation. The negotiations of forming an EAC mission are currently known as the so-called Nairobi Process.

Kenya’s Engagement in DRC’s conflict

The Nairobi Process is not the first time Kenya has considered a military intervention in DRC. Kenyan troops were already part of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission to DRC (MONUSCO) since 2021. [10] Besides the official deployment under the UN mandate, former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Congolese President Tshisekedi signed a Defence Cooperation Agreement in April 2021, laying ground for the current Kenyan military and peace engagement. [11]

MONUSCO Peacekeepers of InBatt 2 defending their Kiwanja base as M-23 rebels attacked the town. Several casualties where evacuated and many civilian came for protection, Kiwanja the 25th of July 2012. Source: Flickr.

In May 2022, former President Kenyatta hosted a five-day peace negotiation between 23 rebel groups operating in DRC and DRC’s governmental representation. [12] Although the official list of participants was not made public, it assumed that the main rebel groups, including M23, were absent. This strong Kenyan engagement only points out the Kenyan interest in DRC, probably most promoted by former President Kenyatta himself. According to the International Crisis Group senior analyst [13], former President Kenyatta was in fact the only regional leader who attended Tshisekedi’s inauguration in 2019 and strong ties were established even before the DRC joined the EAC in 2022. The Kenyan foreign policy towards the EAC mission remained the same after the inauguration of the newly elected President, William Ruto, in September 2022. President Ruto even tasked his predecessor, Uhuru Kenyatta, with leading the regional peace efforts. [14]

The same month, DRC signed an agreement upon deployment of the EAC mission on its soil and first troops arrived in November 2022. [15] Kenya has the prominent position of leading the whole mission and its troops are accompanied by Burundian, Ugandan and South Sudanese ones. Interestingly enough, Kenya as a leading nation will deploy only 1 000 soldiers, same as South Sudan, while Burundi and Uganda will deploy 2 000 soldiers each. [3]

Given the previous disputes between DRC and Rwanda, which escalated in expulsion of Rwandan ambassador from DRC in October this year [16], it was agreed that Rwandan troops, deployed as part of the EAC mission, will be situated only alongside the Rwandan side of the DRC-Rwanda border. [17]

Too Many Actors Involved?

Despite the deployment of troops in early November, so far, no major operational success on the military front is visible. The M23 group claimed to size another two villages. On the diplomatic level, however, a hope is on sight. On 23 November, President Tshisekedi and Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs met in Luanda, Angola, and discussed the resent diplomatic turmoil between these two countries, and possible next steps. [18] Uhuru Kenyatta, as a Kenyan Peace Envoy, and Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye, as the current chairman of the EAC, were also present. The parties agreed on an immediate ceasefire proposal, which was officially welcomed by the M23 rebels two days later, on the 25 November. In their official statement, the group requested an official meeting with ‘the mediator and the facilitator’, just right before the previously scheduled third round of Nairobi Process. [19] It is generally understood, that ‘the mediator and the facilitator’ should be no one else that Uhuru Kenyatta, as he is also the facilitator of the continuing Nairobi Process. [20] But will he?

It is apparent, that a common and comprehensive attitude is needed in the region and that almost enormous expectations are demanded from Kenya, as the apparent leader of both, the military and diplomatic wing. However, Kenya needs to factor in other actors. Besides the ongoing MONUSCO and its troops, Kenya needs to mind Angola, as an influential player. In the end, it was the Angola President João Lourenço, who managed to mediate the crisis between DRC and Rwanda in July 2022, when the region stood on the threshold of an interstate war. [21] Then again, the ceasefire from this November was dealt in Luanda. [22] And as for the international support, either diplomatic or financial, the European Parliament called for Luanda-led peace process. [23]

President of Angola, João Lourenço, meeting Rwandan President Paul Kagame in Kigali, November 2022. Source: Flickr.

This results in two conclusions. First, when it comes to mediating the crisis between the two main protagonists, the DRC and Rwanda, Angola seems to be not only more confident, but also more successful. Secondly, Kenyan Peace Envoy is indeed present in most of the meetings and negotiations, is favored by the rebel group itself, but somehow, Kenya fails to claim its part of the success of the peace process. Although the EAC missions seems united for now, additional funding will be needed, in order to succeed. And in the times of global economic and energy crisis, an international partnership will be needed as well. Thus, Kenya needs to step up in its role of regional peace mediator, or needs to pro-actively support one, that will be more efficient, and preserve some of its regional influence.


[1] East African Community (2022, April 8). The Democratic Republic of the Congo formally joins EAC after signing of the Treaty of Accession to the Community [Press Release]. East African Community. Retrieved from:

[2] Ilunga, P. (2022, September 9). EAC troops get nod for deployment in east DR Congo. The East African. Retrieved from:

[3] Blanshe, M. (2022, November 2). Ruto flags off Kenya troops joining EAC standby force in DRC. The Africa Report.Retrieved from:

[4] Calvin-Smith, G. (2022, June 13). DR Congo: M23 rebel group seizes key border town, DRC blames Rwanda. France 24. Retrieved from:

[5] AlJazeera (2022, June 9). DRC accuses Rwanda of sending disguised soldiers across border. Al Jazeera. Retrieved from:

[6] Doyle, D. (2022, June 1). Rwanda warns it will retaliate if attacked by DRC. The Africa Report. Retrieved from:

[7] Uwiringiyimana, C. (2022, May 31). Rwanda says ‚will not sit idly by‘ if attacked in dispute with Congo. Reuters. Retrieved from:

[8] MoD, Rwanda. (2022, June 17). DRC SOLDIER CROSSES INTO RWANDA, FIRES AT RUBAVU BORDER POST INJURING PEOPLE. [Press Release]. Rwandan Ministry of Defense. Retrieved from:

[9] Al Jazeera. (2022, June 21). East Africa leaders agree regional force to quell DR Congo crisis. Al Jazeera. Retrieved from:

[10] MoD, Kenya. (2021, April 27). KDF Set to Deploy – MONUSCO. Kenyan Ministry of Defense. Retrieved from:

[11] Gisessa, N. (2021, May 1). Inside Kenya’s plan to deploy military to the DR Congo. Nation. Retrieved from:

[12] Fabricius, P. (2022? May 6). Now the East African Community tackles the eastern DRC’s rebels. ISS. Retrieved from:

[13] The International Crisis Group. (2022, July). The Horn: End of Season Special: Ethiopia, Kenya-DRC and the Drought. [Podcast]. The International Crisis Group. Retrieved from:

[14] Owino, V. (2022, September 13). President William Ruto tasks Uhuru Kenyatta to lead regional peace efforts. The East African. Retrieved from:

[15] AFP. (2022, November 2). Kenya deploys troops ‘to protect humanity’ in eastern DR Congo. The East African. Retrieved from:

[16] AFP, The Africa Report. (2022, October 31). DRC expels Rwanda’s ambassador as M23 rebels gain ground. The Africa Report. Retrieved from:

[17] AFP, Africanews. (2022, November 2). Kenya sends troops to DR Congo to fight rebels. Africanews. Retrieved from:

[18] News Wires. (2022, November 23). African leaders ‚agree on ceasefire‘ in violence-torn eastern DR Congo. France 24. Retrieved from:

[19] CTNSIS. (2022, November 25). #BREAKING. M23 Rebels in DR-Congo have accepted to the Great Lakes Ceasefire Deal upon expiry of the Friday ultimatum. Asks for a meeting with the Uhuru Kenyatta mediation team. Rwanda distances itself from the rebel group. Group takes control of 2 villages in Rutshuru. Twitter Post. Retrieved from:

[20] Africanews. (2022, November 28). Third meeting on DRC peace process opens in Nairobi. Africanews. Retrieved from:

[21] Ayeni, T. (2022, July 7). Rwanda and DRC start peace talks mediated by Angola. The Africa Report. Retrieved from:

[22] Vieira, A. (2022, November 21). Luanda hosts summit on DRC, Rwanda crisis. The East African. Retrieved from:

[23] Tasamba, J. (2022, November 25). European Parliament calls for support of Luanda-led peace process in DR Congo. AA. Retrieved from: