The US government has praised Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta for bringing DR Congo and Rwanda together for a meeting last week, saying it could ease tensions between the two neighbours.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to President Kenyatta in a telephone call Thursday about Nairobi’s initiative within the conclave of the East African Community in DR Congo as the best approach to ending the armed conflict in the country’s troubled east.
< "Secretary Blinken expressed his appreciation of the Nairobi Process, which has brought together the leaders of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, South Sudan and Tanzania," US State Department spokesman Ned Price said over the call.
“The Minister noted that these meetings of heads of state are instrumental in de-escalating regional tensions, particularly between DR Congo and Ruan da.”
The Nairobi Initiative is on President Kenyatta’s agenda in his capacity as Chair of the EAC and aims to c work out a long-term solution for peace in eastern DR Congo.
Two weeks ago, regional leaders backed President Kenyatta’s call for a regional force – the East African Standby Force, EASF – to be deployed after a meeting of the EAC EAC member states to the force. The actual deployment date has not yet been decided, although a report from the Nairobi meeting indicated that details would be announced in early July.
However, the meeting was preceded by a public dispute between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. with Kinshasa accusing Kigali of supporting the M23 militia behind the armed conflict.
Kigali denied the allegations, but the first physical meeting between Presidents Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Felix Tshisekedi of DR Congo in Nairobi has been identified as a crucial icebreaker.
Congolese politicians and the public have expressed reservations about the planned deployment of peacekeeping forces. They said the East Africa Standby Force (EASF) would duplicate the roles of the UN mission (Monusco) as well as other existing interventions currently on the ground.
US support for the Nairobi process now follows the United Nations and African Union for the regional engagement, seen as the first such public step by regional countries to resolve the decades-long conflict in DR Congo. Meanwhile, Kenya abstained on Thursday in a vote on extending sanctions on DR Congo, including restricting arms purchases. Resolution 2641/2022 was eventually passed, but Kenya objected to the retention of a clause requiring the DRC army to notify the Sanctions Committee of certain weapons it intends to purchase.
“Kenya has expressed solidarity with the Democratic Republic of the Congo in its appeal for a complete de-registration of weapons and the provision of support and training for military activities,” said Dr. Martin Kimani, Kenya’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
He said a notification requirement is an unnecessary disclosure that benefits anti-government armed groups.