Two Rwandan army officers, who were serving under the East African Community regional force in the Democratic Republic of Congo, have been expelled, the Rwandan army said Tuesday.
The heads of state in East Africa agreed to deploy a joint military force to eastern Congo last year to restore peace in the region.
While Congo excluded Rwanda from deploying frontline troops with the force, the Rwandan officers were reportedly working at the regional troops’ headquarters in Goma, the capital of North Kivu province.
But on Monday, Maj. Gen. Sylvian Ekenge, spokesman of the armed forces of Congo, said the government asked the regional force to expel Rwandan officers from Congolese territory over “security concerns.”
Brig. Gen. Ronald Rwivanga, spokesperson of the Rwandan military, said the officers had returned to Rwanda.
“Their expulsion did not come as a surprise to Rwanda,” Rwivanga told reporters.
He likened it to last year’s similar move when the Congolese government expelled Rwanda’s ambassador to the country as tensions escalated over the M23 rebels fighting government troops in the east.
Congo has persistently accused Rwanda of backing M23 rebels, a charge Rwanda denies.
The regional force was expected to have between 6,500 and 12,000 troops working with the Congolese army on a six-month renewable mandate.
However, the force is not yet fully deployed.
Following the deteriorating security situation in eastern Congo, particularly in the Ituri and North Kivu provinces, Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya’s former president and facilitator of the bloc’s peace process, on Tuesday, called for an “urgent return to dialogue and consultation in order to promote trust and confidence among the parties to the conflict and alleviate the suffering of people.”