The Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda have agreed to a “de-escalation process” to stop violence between the Congolese army and rebels, which the DRC claims are supported by Rwanda. Angola’s President, serving as mediator, has called the agreement a “ceasefire”.
“I am pleased to announce that we have had positive results … we have agreed on a ceasefire, among other measures,” said Angolan leader Joao Lourenco, after a day-long mini-summit Wednesday in Luanda between the leaders of the two countries.
The Congolese presidency said the three leaders had decided upon a “de-escalation process between the DRC and Rwanda”.
The process includes the cessation of hostilities and the “immediate and unconditional withdrawal” of the M23 rebel group from its positions in North Kivu, in eastern Congo.
According to the Congolese presidency, M23 must cease hostilities, and all “exploitation of natural resources in the region must be done in strict respect of the sovereignty of states”.
The leaders are also aiming to create the conditions for the return to the DRC of former M23 fighters living in Rwanda.
The M23, or March 23 Movement, a group of Congolese Tutsis, came to prominence when it briefly captured the eastern city of Goma in 2012 before being driven out in a joint UN-Congolese offensive.
The group resumed fighting in November after it accused the Congolese government of failing to honour an agreement to incorporate its fighters into the regular army.
Rebels have made significant advances in eastern Congo, last month capturing the town of Bunagana on the border with Uganda.
Congo has accused Rwanda of backing the M23, arguing that the capture of Bunagana was an invasion by its neighbour.
Rwanda denies supporting the rebel group, and in turn has accused Congo of supporting the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, FDLR, a group including some fighters who allegedly took part in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.
Some 170,000 people have been displaced since M23 resurfaced in eastern Congo.
Wednesday’s summit in Angola called for the return of all refugees to their countries of origin, according to the statement from the Congolese presidency.
The de-escalation process will be managed by the DRC-Rwanda committee, which will be revived and is to hold a first meeting in Luanda on 12 July.
To ensure compliance, an observation mechanism will be put in place, managed by Angola, which continues to mediate the process.