Uganda has officially pulled its soldiers out of the conflict-ridden eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where they were part of a regional security force. The deployment of the East African Community force, initiated in late 2022, faced criticism akin to the UN peacekeeping effort in the DRC, with accusations of ineffectiveness in curbing rebel-backed violence, particularly from Kinshasa.
Felix Kulayigye, the spokesman for the Uganda People’s Defence Force, confirmed the withdrawal, stating, “We have brought our forces back home, and we believe we achieved the goals of the mission.”
The regional force, consisting of over 1,500 soldiers from South Sudan, Kenya, and Burundi, has already withdrawn, with Kenyan and South Sudanese troops expected to depart in early January.
The deployment of East African troops to Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, commenced in November 2022, responding to the resurgence of the M23 rebel group. Despite an invitation to liberate territory under M23 control, the DRC government deemed the regional force ineffective and decided not to extend its mandate beyond December 8.
To fill the vacuum, the DRC is turning to troops from the Southern African Community (SADC). Meanwhile, conflict continues to escalate between M23 rebels and Congolese government troops, further complicated by the involvement of allied militias.
Eastern DRC has been marred by armed conflicts and militia activities for over three decades, stemming from regional wars in the 1990s and 2000s. The recent withdrawal of regional forces comes amid ongoing violence and ahead of general elections scheduled for December 20. Notably, certain territories in North Kivu won’t participate in voting due to the M23 rebellion.