Four African countries have been tasked by regional governments in the Great Lakes region to form a force of 4,000 troops to fight the M23 rebel group in DR Congo. Kenya, Tanzania, Angola and DR Congo will deploy the force under an African Union mandate in the troubled eastern part of DR Congo.
The International Conference for Great Lakes Region meeting in Kampala chaired by President Museveni resolved on Saturday that the four countries should make a joint presentation to the AU Peace and Security Commission for approval of the force deployment within three months.
The formation and deployment of the AU force is an indictment of the UN mission in DR Congo, which has been blamed by Rwanda for not doing enough to end the conflict despite an annual budget of $1 billion.
Uganda and Rwanda, whose border security is threatened by rebel groups operating in eastern DR Congo, will not be part of the AU force.
Earlier in the week, there were reports that the DR Congo was uncomfortable with Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi being part of the force because of the suspicion arising from the troubled historical relations between Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo. But Defence minister Crispus Kiyonga denied the reports.
Rwandan and Ugandan forces fought to overthrow the Congolese government in early 2000 before fighting each other in 2001.
The State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Henry Okello Oryem, said Uganda was busy with Somalia under Amisom and could not commit forces for the new mission.
According to sources, President Museveni is said to have told the meeting that Ugandan troops understand the Congolese terrain and would have helped but he said they were busy with the AU mission in Somalia
Fighting between M23 and the Congolese government has displaced hundreds of thousands of refugees in the North Kivu region.
M23 fighters mutinied against Congolese forces in April 2012, accusing the Kinshasa government of neglect, four years after signing a pact with the government of Preisdent Joseph Kabila to lay down their arms. They are formerly part of National Congress for Defence of People (CNDP) under Gen. Laurent Nkunda who was reportedly placed under house arrest in Rwanda in 2009.
The proposed force is to fight rebel groups like the anti-Kigali Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and others.
Tanzania was the only country that committed troops for the mission during the two-day summit that sat at the Commonwealth Resort Munyonyo. “….express appreciation to the United Republic of Tanzania for its offer to contribute troops to the neutral international force and call upon other member states to make the same commitment within one month,” the joint communiqué issued after the summit said.
The summit appealed to the international partners and regional governments for support. “We request the chairman of the ICGLR to formerly request African States, regional and International partners to provide financial, logistical and technical support for the operationalisation of the neutral international force,” the statement said.