DRC, Rwanda agree to ‘de-escalate’ tensions in Angola-brokered talks

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda have agreed to a “de-escalation process” following weeks of rising tensions over rebel fighting in eastern DRC, DRC presidency said after mediated talks.

But the mediator of the talks, Angolan President Joao Lourenco, went further announcing a “ceasefire” on Wednesday – although giving no details.

“I am pleased to announce that we have had positive results, in our view, in that we have agreed on a ceasefire, among other measures,” Lourenco said in remarks at the end of the mini-summit attended by Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and DRC’s Felix Tshisekedi in the Angolan capital Luanda.

Tshisekedi’s office said a “roadmap” had been established towards normalising diplomatic ties, including ending hostilities involving the M23 militia in eastern DRC.

The announcements came after day-long talks which the Rwandan state broadcaster reported had “concluded with an agreed-upon roadmap to deescalate hostilities”.

But the Rwanda Broadcasting Agency stressed that it was agreed that the issue of M23 “be dealt with domestically within the framework of the Nairobi process.”

M23 rebels at heart of tensions 

Violence has flared between the DRC army and the M23 rebels and is ongoing.

The DRC has repeatedly accused Rwanda of backing the M23, a charge the small central African country always denied.

A mostly Congolese Tutsi rebel group, the M23 – or “March 23 Movement” – first leapt to prominence when it briefly captured the eastern DRC city of Goma in 2012 before it was driven out in a joint UN-DRC offensive.

After lying mostly dormant for years, the M23 resumed fighting last November after accusing the DRC government of failing to honour an agreement to incorporate its fighters into the army.

Fierce fighting has seen the rebels make significant advances in eastern DRC. Last month, M23 fighters captured the strategic town of Bunagana on the DRC-Ugandan border, for example.

Joint DRC-Rwanda committee

At the end of Wednesday’s talks, the DRC presidency said the three presidents had decided upon a “de-escalation process between the DRC and Rwanda”.

This involves setting up a joint DRC-Rwanda committee, which is due to hold its first meeting in Luanda on July 12, as well as a roadmap for normalising relations.

The M23 must cease hostilities under the roadmap, according to the DRC presidency, and the “exploitation of natural resources in the region must be done in strict respect of the sovereignty of states”.

Lourenco, who is also the chairman of the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), mediated the talks at the request of the Africa Union after the violence grew into a diplomatic faceoff between the two neighbours.



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