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DRC's president on state visit to Botswana, bilateral ties and security top the agenda

President of the DRC Felix Tshisekedi welcomed by Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi upon his arrival for a state visit in Botswana at the Airport, in Gaborone, May 9, 2023.   -  
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The president of the Democratic Republic of Congo kicked off a state visit to Botswana on Tuesday (May. 9). Commenting on the upcoming deployment of SADC troops to the DRC, he criticized the action of contingents belonging to the EAC force.

Felix Tschiskédi’s inaugural visit should see him and his counterpart Mokgweetsi Masisi "explore new opportunities to deepen bilateral cooperation and discuss continental integration", Office of the President of the Republic of Botswana stated.

On May 10, Tschiskédi will tour the headquarters of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

The visit came one day after a special summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The 16-member group which includes DRC and Botswana agreed to deploy forces to help quell violence in the eastern DRC.

Speaking in Gaborone upon his arrival, DRC's president confirmed, his country would work to organize the coming of SADC troops while criticising contingents already deployed in his country; namely troops from the East African Community.

"We have the confirmation of the coming of SADC troops which we will have to put in place" he said.

The persistence of violence

Dozens of armed groups plague eastern DRC, a legacy of regional wars that raged in the 1990s and 2000s.

One group, the M23, has wreaked havoc since re-emerging from dormancy in late 2021.

The DRC accuses its smaller central African neighbour Rwanda of backing the group, something Rwanda has repeatedly denied.

US and French officials, as well as United Nations experts, agree with the assessment.

UN chief  Antonio Guterres on Saturday (May 6) addressed a meeting in Burundi of African nations that signed the 2013 accord to promote stability and security in DRC.

However, "despite our collective efforts, more than 100 armed groups -- Congolese and foreign -- still operate today and thus threaten the stability of the entire Great Lakes region."

"It is time for the violence to stop. I reiterate my call to all armed groups -- lay down your arms, immediately," Guterres said.

The seven-nation East African Community (EAC) created a military force to respond to the crisis last June, with Kenyan soldiers deploying in November followed this year by Burundian, Ugandan and South Sudanese contingents.

Tshisekedi said Tuesday (May. 9) the EAC force's mandate ends in June, "and if we feel that the mandate was not fulfilled will return them and thank them for having tried".

"There is cohabitation that we have noticed between the contingent of East African Community and the rebels," Tshisekedi said at a news conference.

"That is a genuine problem when it comes to the mission assigned, and also compels to ask, what is the purpose of the mission?" he said, claiming that except for the Burundi troops, others "are now living together with M23".

Namibian President Hage Geingob on Monday (May 8) emphasised the need "for SADC to work together with the East African Community... to better coordinate our efforts" to back Kinshasa.

During the DRC's president visit set to last four days (from Tuesday) the Democratic Republic of Congo's embassy to Botswana was inaugurated. It "gives hope that the two countries now have an opportunity to engage much more frequently and fulfil previous commitments made," the office of the president of Bostwana stated.

Tshisekedi's visit is not it his first time in Bostwana though, as he was "guest of Honour when Botswana officially opened the Kazungula Bridge" in 2021.

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