East African leaders demand 'immediate ceasefire' in eastern DRC

REUTERS/James Akena

Leaders from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and other countries in East Africa have called for a ceasefire in the eastern DRC from Friday evening, as well as the immediate withdrawal of the M23 rebel group.

Eastern DRC has been the scene of fierce fighting in recent months between Congolese troops and M23 rebels.

The authorities in Kinshasa have accused Rwanda of aiding the rebels, a charge denied by Kigali.

At a summit in Angola's capital Luanda this week, neighbouring nations agreed to demand "the immediate withdrawal of M23 rebels from the occupied areas", according to Angolan Foreign Minister Tete Antonio, who facilitated the talks.

The East African Community (EAC), of which Rwanda and DR Congo are members, has promised to deploy a joint force to quell the violence. Kenya, Burundi, Uganda, South Sudan and Tanzania are the other EAC nations.

The Luanda agreement warns the rebels that "if they refuse to disengage and liberate all zones which they currently occupy, the heads of state of the East African Community nations will instruct the regional force to use the means necessary to force them to surrender".

The UN Security Council has called for a halt to fighting, for the M23 to withdraw from occupied areas and for the end to "all external support to non-state armed actors, including the M23".

The M23, a largely Congolese Tutsi militia, has seized swathes of territory across North Kivu province, edging towards the region's main city of Goma.

"It would be a historic mistake to integrate the M23 or other groups into the army," according to Munubo.


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