Complications Surround Kenyan Peacemaking in DRC

M-23 launch attack on MONUSCO in Kiwanja.

M-23 launch attack on MONUSCO in Kiwanja.

“One of the missing links has been the continued refusal by Kinshasa to negotiate with the rebel group M23.”

In February 2023, The East African, an online outlet covering regional affairs in Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda, published the excerpted article on the challenges Kenya faces in mediating the conflict between the Congolese government and rebels of the March 23 Movement, better known as M23. The M23 is predominantly Tutsi and is backed by Rwanda, whose president, Paul Kagame, is Tutsi and sympathizes with M23’s grievances against the Congolese government for neglecting their communities. In 2022, M23 suddenly renewed its offensive against the Congolese government after a nine-year hiatus, which began in 2012 when a fragile truce was achieved. The former Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta, who left office in 2022, is heading efforts by the East African Community (EAC) to find a resolution, but the complexities of the conflict make peace elusive. Nevertheless, the article notes there is no plan to replace Kenyatta and that he is incentivized by the goal to make Kenya proud as a regional peacemaker.

According to the article, the inability to reach an agreement is caused, on one end, by the Congolese government’s insistence that M23 rebels are terrorists and refusal to negotiate with them on that basis. One the other end, M23 rebels are willing to meet with Kenyatta but demand direct negotiations with the Congolese government. Kenyatta’s most immediate recommendation is for the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) member-states to all contribute forces to separate the government and rebel lines. At present, however, only Kenyan forces are deployed in the epicenter of the violence in the town of Goma in eastern Congo, while deployments from Burundi, Uganda, and South Sudan have been pledged but not implemented. Further complicating peace efforts is the article’s claim that the Congolese government sees the EACRF mandate as militarily defeating M23, while the EACRF seeks to create conditions for a political process and dialogue. As noted in the excerpted article from Kenya-based publication The Star, 200 Kenyan troops traveled to eastern Congo to join the roughly 700 Kenyan troops already there. According to the article, their mission was not to defeat the M23 rebels, but to remain impartial and stabilize the region to enforce a conclusive peace agreement or at least a more enduring truce than one that had existed from 2012 until 2021.


“Uhuru’s delicate balancing act in Congo peace talks assignment,” (regional-oriented weekly newspaper focusing on Kenyan, Ugandan, and Rwandan political, military, and economic affairs), 11 February 2023.

Former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta has been praised for helping end the Tigrayan conflict in Ethiopia. As a retired president and a glad-handed statesman, he became an obvious choice for the East African Community (EAC) in its pursuit of peace in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. But the complexity of the Congo conflict has left Kenyatta gasping for breath, with support and opposition coming in equal measure.

Last week, Kenyatta skipped the EAC Summit in Bujumbura called by President Evariste Ndayishimiye to help broker a ceasefire to the violence in eastern DRC.

Kenyatta’s domestic troubles, however, are only part of the problem in brokering peace in the DRC. On Thursday, he endorsed the Summit’s call for a ceasefire and withdrawal of rebels from the positions…. One of the missing links has been the continued refusal by Kinshasa to negotiate with the rebel group M23…. The M23, on their part, are demanding “direct negotiations” with the Congolese government. The rebels also asked to express their grievance to Kenyatta, whom they have met at least twice this year.

“200 more KDF troops arrive in DRC to enforce peace,” (independent Nairobi-based newspaper focusing on Kenyan politics), 16 November 2022.

The second batch of troops from Kenya to be deployed to fight M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo in a joint regional operation left the country.A team of about 903 has been deployed to the region to help contain the fighting that has displaced many. About 200 more troops left Nairobi for the troubled region of Goma. Gen Kibochi told the troops to remember their joint mission with other East African Community states to enforce peace. He urged the officers to obey the law of the land as they are deployed. The Commander of the team Major General Jeff Nyaga said they are there to help DRC stabilise.

Image Information:

Image: M-23 launch attack on MONUSCO in Kiwanja
Attribution: MONUSCO Photos (CC x 2.0)

DRC Conflicts Reveal Difficulties in Deploying Regional Forces

M23 rebels in the DRC.

M23 rebels in the DRC.

“But however noble President Kenyatta’s deployment proposal, not everyone in the DRC agrees with the regional leaders’ decision of a military solution to stabilise the restive eastern DRC provinces.”

Kenya’s influential President, Uhuru Kenyatta, recently proposed deploying the East African Standby Force (EASF) to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  Regional leaders at the East African Community Heads of State Conclave even endorsed Kenyatta’s proposal, but still no troops have been sent to help combat M23 rebels as well as the multiple militias who have ramped up attacks on civilians.  As the excerpted article from the Africa-based media company The East African notes, there are several reasons for this delay.  Many politicians in the DRC, as well as a significant segment of the population, view a potential EASF deployment with distrust.  They are especially wary of having Rwandan troops in the DRC given the long history of hostility between the two nations.  Troops from Uganda and Burundi, as well as Rwanda, are also unwelcomed as they all have rebel groups in the country.  There is fear their divergent goals might further complicate an already complicated situation.  There is also concern that EASF will be comprised of countries that have formerly plundered DRC’s mineral riches.  Finally, there are traditional obstacles to deployment including logistics, communications, rules of engagement, budgets, and agreements on the status of forces.  As the article explains, no timeline exists regarding when these issues would be resolved.   Meanwhile, violence in eastern DRC is increasing, portending further destabilization and the potential interruption of the importation of critical minerals, including those for defense industries.  The recent military intervention in The Gambia by several West African countries under the auspices of ECOWAS gives some hope that East African countries can also come together and find that delicate balance whereby all parties can agree on the terms of a deployment.  Additionally, any solutions to the struggle of launching the EASF could be valuable in helping the African Union’s African Standby Force finally stand up.  Both forces have the potential to help provide the security and stability desperately needed in the DRC and elsewhere in Africa.


Patrick Ilunga and Luke Anami, “Why the EAC regional force is yet to be deployed to DR Congo,” The East African (African-based media company), 27 June 2022.

“All the armies from the East African Community states are already present in the east of our country in one form or another.  The Rwandan army is associated with the M23 in North Kivu and supports the Red-Tabara [Burundian rebellion based in Congo].  The Ugandan army, which you invited, has been operating openly in North Kivu and Ituri since November 2021.  The Burundian army operates regularly in South Kivu, and the South Sudanese army in the province of Haut-Uele [northeast of DRC].  The Tanzanian and Kenyan armies are already present in North Kivu and Ituri as part of the UN intervention brigade,” the letter reads.

“At least three out of seven member states of the East African Community have been involved for more than two decades in the aggression and destabilisation of our country through direct interventions of their armies or by proxy, through armed groups.  Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi accuse each other of destabilisation.  They compete for influence, even control of part of our country for security as well as economic and geopolitical reasons, so much so that more than once they have had to confront each other on our territory, directly or through armed groups,” Lucha writes.President Tshisekedi has to make tough decisions.  His main political opponent Martin Fayulu accuses him of “subcontracting the security of the country to Rwanda and Uganda and unnecessarily creating a competition of East African countries over the Congo”” He has called on the president to reveal “his secret deal.”

Image Information:

Image: M23 rebels in the DRC
Source: Al Jazeera/Wikimedia,
Attribution: CC BY-SA 2.0

Beyond the Glitzy Projects: China’s Far-Reaching Impact on Kenya

China’s influence in Kenya extends far beyond large scale projects such as the railroad it financed and helped build.

China’s influence in Kenya extends far beyond large scale projects such as the railroad it financed and helped build.

“By going beyond the call of duty to provide auxiliary services to Kenyans, Chinese firms are building [a] strong foundation for public diplomacy in the country.”

In Kenya, China’s influence can be clearly seen in the high-profile Mombassa-Nairobi Railway, the Lamu deep seaport, and the towering Global Trade Centre.  However, beyond these massive projects built by Chinese companies, often with Chinese money and labor, there are numerous other means, including much smaller projects, through which China is making its mark in Kenya.  As the accompanying excerpted article from the Kenyan news agency Capital News explains, that mark is enormous, with China, and particularly Chinese technology, revolutionizing the country’s infrastructure and helping to supercharge its manufacturing base.  Chinese influence on Kenya includes charitable actions, such as delivering substantial amounts of medical supplies critical to helping Kenya deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, all the while garnering appreciation from the Kenyan population.  Chinese online education platforms also filled the gap created when 2,000 Kenyan students found themselves cut off from their university as the disease spread.

The influence of Chinese companies is vast: they have donated food, established industrial parks, held educational workshops, and are transferring technology to Kenyan factories.  However, as the article notes, perhaps the most important impact China has had on Kenya is the growing attitude among young Kenyans that through hard work and knowledge, the country can accomplish projects of all sizes important to national development.  This outlook is in large part a result of Kenyans witnessing, and learning from, successful Chinese businesspeople living and working in Kenya.

The article does not mention any of the pushback against China often discussed in other publications, such as that concerning an unsustainable debt load, poor quality of some Chinese goods, and Chinese workers doing jobs that Kenyans could fill.  However, despite this editorial omission, the article does bring to light the influence China has in Kenya beyond the “glitzy” projects, which tends to be underreported and as a result possibly underappreciated.  China’s influence in Kenya is far larger than just the high-profile projects would indicate, and as the article describes, that influence is building strong relationships, including diplomatic, between the two countries.  It behooves other countries wanting to deal with Kenya to take note of how China has grown that relationship through the breadth and depth of its business activities.


Adhere Cavince, “How Chinese firms have changed the face of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi,” Capital News (a Kenyan news agency), 22 December 2021.

The 8th Ministerial of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation held in Senegal last month resolved to support private sector partnerships between China and African countries. Given the strong record of Kenya to attract and sustain high caliber international businesses, more Chinese firms should consider investing in the country and further promote economic integration of the two countries. By going beyond the call of duty to provide auxiliary services to Kenyans, Chinese firms are building strong foundation for public diplomacy in the country.

There is increasing confidence that Kenyans too, can follow the footsteps of their Chinese counterparts and improve their socio-economic standing. As more Kenyans get a chance to interact with Chinese firms, more learning points emerge. Nairobi is for instance home to young and skilled professional in rail and road construction, capable of providing their services beyond Kenya.

In the course of implementing big-ticket infrastructure projects across the country, Chinese enterprises have also engaged in building community roads, setting up water pans and upgrading learning institutions through donation and renovation of classrooms and provision of learning materials. During the floods and landslides witnessed in West Pokot in 2019, for example, Chinese firms donated food and non-food items in a show of solidarity with the affected households.

Yet, beyond these glitzy projects, the firms have equally been engaging in small acts of charity that have equally left inedible marks in the lives of individuals and households across the country.

Image Information:

Image: China’s influence in Kenya extends far beyond large scale projects such as the railroad it financed and helped build.
Source: Macabe5387/Wikimedia,
Attribution: CC BY-SA 4.0