The Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda have agreed to a “de-escalation process” following weeks of rising tensions over rebel fighting in eastern DRC, the Congolese presidency said Wednesday after mediated talks.
But the talks mediator, Angolan President Joao Lourenco, went further announcing a “ceasefire” — although giving no details.
Violence has flared between is the Congolese 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.
“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 Congo’s Felix Tshisekedi in the Angolan capital Luanda.
Tshisekedi’s office said a “roadmap” had been established towards normalizing diplomatic ties, including through 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.”
A mostly Congolese Tutsi rebel group, the M23 — or “March 23 Movement” — first leapt to prominence when it briefly captured the eastern Congolese city of Goma in 2012 before it was driven out in a joint UN-Congolese offensive.
After lying mostly dormant for years, the M23 resumed fighting last November after accusing the Congolese government of failing to honor an agreement to incorporate its fighters into the army.
Fierce fighting has seen the rebels make significant advances in eastern Congo. Last month, M23 fighters captured the strategic town of Bunagana on the Congolese-Ugandan border, for example.
At the end Wednesday’s talks, the Congolese 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 normalizing relations.
The M23 must cease hostilities under the roadmap, according to the Congolese 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 neighbors.