African leaders ‘agree on ceasefire’ in violence-torn eastern Congo

An agreement has been reached that could see the adoption of a ceasefire in violence-torn eastern Congo as soon as Friday, Angola’s Foreign Minister Tete Antonio has said.

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Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi had met Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta in Luanda on Wednesday as tensions soared between the neighbors amid bloody militia violence on their border.

The eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has witnessed fierce fighting in recent months between Congolese troops and the M23 rebel group.

An agreement was reached on an “immediate ceasefire” in the Democratic Republic of Congo at 18:00 (1600 GMT) Friday, Tete said after the talks.

The parties also agreed to demand “the immediate withdrawal of M23 rebels from the occupied territories,” he added.

The clashes have sparked a diplomatic row, with the Democratic Republic of Congo accusing Rwanda of aiding the rebels, something its much smaller neighbor denies.

The East African Community (EAC), of which Rwanda is a member, has also pledged to deploy a joint force to stop the violence.

Kenyan troops arrived in the Democratic Republic of Congo earlier this month and Uganda says it will soon deploy around 1,000 troops.

01:18 Kenyan soldiers land in the city of Goma, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on November 12, 2022, as part of a regional military operation targeting rebels in the region. © Alexis Huguet, AFP

The EAC chairman, Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye, and former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta – the EAC’s “facilitator” in efforts to restore peace and security in the mineral-rich region – were also in Luanda.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame was not present at the talks for reasons that were not immediately clear.

Ahead of the talks, UN Security Council members called for an end to the fighting, for M23 to withdraw from occupied territories and for an end to “all external support to non-state armed actors, including M23.”

M23, a largely Congolese Tutsi militia, has seized swathes of territory across North Kivu province, which borders the region’s capital, Goma.

The Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda agreed on a de-escalation plan in July, but clashes resumed the very next day.

On Tuesday, Kinshasa said it would not sit down for talks with M23 rebels until the group withdrew from the areas it controlled.

The M23 first rose to prominence 10 years ago when it captured Goma, before being driven to the ground.

It resurfaced late last year, claiming that the Democratic Republic of Congo had failed to keep a promise to integrate its soldiers into the army, among other complaints.

Rwanda, which denies the DRC’s accusations against it, accuses Kinshasa of collaborating with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) – a former Rwandan Hutu rebel group established in the DRC after the 1994 genocide.

(AFP)

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