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A Majority of Congolese Reject East African Community Regional Force

The regional force of the East African Community (EAC) has been under pressure for several weeks from civil society in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which considers it ineffective. Deployed in the DRC from August 2022 to track down armed groups, including the March 23 Movement (M23), which continues to expand its zone of influence, the EAC regional force is rejected by a majority of Congolese. 

This is the main finding of the thematic note entitled A Majority of Congolese Reject East African Community Regional Force, published this Thursday, February 23 by Ebuteli, a Congolese research institute on politics, governance, and violence, the Congo Research Group (CRG) at New York University’s Center on International Cooperation; and the Bureau d’études de recherche et de consulting international (BERCI). Sixty-nine percent of Congolese surveyed do not believe the regional force will lead to the total eradication of armed groups, according to our January 2023 poll.

The Congolese and EAC authorities should pay attention to these signals. They show that, even before its full deployment, the EAC force is already being rejected in the DRC, and that this rejection is not limited to the demonstrators. The judgment is even harsher in the provinces where the force will be deployed. If the force is unable to achieve encouraging results quickly, it runs the risk of seeing its relations with civilians deteriorate even more rapidly, making further deployment much more difficult. It could also affect the image of the EAC itself in the DRC, the latest country to join the regional body in 2022,” said Pierre Boisselet, director of violence research at the Ebuteli Institute.

The rejection also affects the UN Mission in the DRC. Sixty-seven percent of Congolese polled believe MONUSCO should leave, up from twenty-nine percent in 2016.

Russia seems to be benefiting from the perceived failure of the international community to resolve the M23 crisis, as it is now the country with by far the most support (sixty-one percent of Congolese surveyed have a “good” or “very good” opinion of this country).

In terms of security, Congolese are slightly less hostile to national security measures, such as a state of siege, although this measure is increasingly seen as ineffective. Sixty-four percent of Congolese surveyed now believe that this measure will not lead to the total eradication of armed groups (compared to fifty-four percent in August 2022). Only twenty-nine percent of Congolese surveyed believe that the security situation has improved overall since the measure was introduced.

Click here to find the entire thematic note.

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