The East African Force (EAC) set up to fight insurgents in eastern DRC is failing in its mission.
According to local residents, despite EAC claims that the rebels had quit key strongholds, they remain present in the region.
"They (M23 rebels, Ed.) are still here, they have not withdrawn, and we continue to pay taxes. We buy goods in Uganda and we pay taxes to the rebels as usual despite the presence of the regional force. We live with them, but for today, they have hidden themselves due to the presence of the press here. They even removed their uniforms and are dressed in civilian clothes. UPDF and M23 are almost the same. They walk around together, and some M23 rebels have left the border, others are still there, and most have built plank houses on the edge of the park", said Michel, a resident in Bunagana speaking on condition of anonymity.
Created last year to stop M23 rebels who seized swathes of territory in the eastern DRC, the East African Community (EAC) force draws on troops from Burundi, Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan.
"Whatever one says, we are in a process that is very critical. Obviously, they are withdrawing, they are not withdrawing, but there are movements that are certainly timid, but not at the pace that we want. But the idea here is not to offer new pretexts to continue bereaving our populations. As you know, we are in an election year, and we want all our compatriots to participate in this electoral process", said Patrick Muyaya, Minister of Communication of the DRC.
The Tutsi-led M23 has captured large areas in North Kivu province since taking up arms in late 2021 after years of dormancy, with over one million people displaced by the fighting.