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The minimum decent thing for DRC to do: pay for East African regional force

Failure to provide clear financing arrangements for the East African regional force will expose the EAC to failure and possible irrelevancy

The East African Community (EAC) marked its 23rd anniversary on 30th November with a brand new member, the Democratic Republic of Congo –DRC, on board. However, DRC brought with it massive problems of a security nature. As a result, the EAC has to deal with the conundrum of financing regional military deployments to pacify the eastern part of the huge country where the Kinshasa government is absent, known as Kivu. The solution to this issue should be self-evident. DRC has to bear the financial burden of this regional effort.

With DRC’s entry, the regional now seven-member block’s area doubled in size by adding 2.345 million square kilometres, while the population grew by 100 to 300 million. The Kivu (North and South) area has four international borders. These are with Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania (by water). But instead of bringing advantage in commerce and human interactions, the proximity is causing trouble to the neighbours. Taking advantage of Kinshasa’s inability to govern in Kivu, around 120 rebel groups are operating in the area, some of them messing up with the security of DRC’s neighbours. Therefore, financing the intervention that would bring back order in the Kivu would go a long way to show that Kinshasa is ready to take its share of responsibility for the security quagmire that the region faces.

Already, the East Africa regional block has accepted to play a positive role in show of solidarity for the Congolese people. To tackle the anarchy in Kivu, the East African Regional Force -EARF has already begun deployment, with Kenyan and Burundian boots already on the ground. Other member countries are yet to contribute to the force, awaiting Kinshasa’s approval of who should help it.

At the same time, there have been indications that the United Nation’s most expensive peace mission in history, Monusco, might withdraw from DRC after a decade plus of registering remarkable failure and spending over $1billion every year. This begs the question, how is the EARF supposed to do a better job with uncertain funding?

The Arusha-based EAC has a total annual budget of $91 million which it rarely manages to fully fund. South Sudan and Burundi hardly pay their subscriptions. Rwanda is the most punctual at meeting its financial obligations to the EAC, followed by Uganda. The richer Kenya and Tanzania take their time but end up paying. The organisation is supposed to run a military campaign which has been costing the deep-pocketed UN a billion dollars a year. This appears unrealistic.

So who is going to pick the bill to rescue the world’s resource-richest country?

Kenya’s immediate past president, Uhuru Kenyatta, is as busy as he was while in State House, managing the process of pacifying DRC. But unlike a few months ago when he could draw a clear budget as commander-in-chief of the Kenya Defence Forces, this time he will have to scratch his head to fund the militaries of the not-so–rich partners to rescue the richest partner.

But logically, this should be a no brainer. The minimum decent thing DRC must do is to commit to pay the bill for the regional security operations to restore normalcy there. Just like doctors don’t pay the patients and mechanics don’t pay the motorists, DRC should pick the bill.

More than anybody else, Congolese know the situation of their country very well. They know, or at least have an idea, of the mineral resources the country has, including those highly demanded by the exponentially growing electric mobility industry. They know how many foreign companies are collecting those valuable minerals from there on the cheap and signing agreements worth hundreds of thousands of millions of dollars to avoid future legal actions related to the cases of corruption in which they are involved. If the money spent by the government on the national army (FARDC) is not producing the intended results, then they should demand that their leaders relocate those resources and commit to paying for the EARF so it does a good job to restore human dignity to the people of DRC who have been abused by different armed people, including the UN peacekeepers.

Failure to provide clear financing arrangements for EARF will expose the EAC to failure and possible irrelevancy, and then the blame games will start. So, someone needs to ask the timely question now, “who is financing the intervention to pacify eastern DRC?” The top candidate is DRC.

In any case, Kinshasa needs to tell its new EAC partners how it expects the operation to be funded.

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