East Africa: Leaders Meet Tshisekedi in Race to Calm DR Congo Conflict

The East African Community (EAC) leaders are set to meet DR Congo’s President Felix Tshisekedi in the capital Kinshasa on Sunday and Monday for high-level consultations on the conflict in the country’s eastern region.

The meeting has been announced amid renewed fighting between Congolese government forces (FARDC) and the M23 rebel group, with media reports saying the insurgents are approaching Goma, the capital of North Kivu Province.

According to an EAC statement, Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya’s ex-president and the facilitator in the DRC peace process set out for Kinshasa on Sunday, November 13, and would be joined by Evariste Ndayishimiye, Burundi’s president and EAC chairperson as well as Peter Mathuki, the bloc’s secretary general.

“The quest for peace in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo continues to gain momentum as a top priority for the region,” read part of the EAC statement, seen by The New Times.

The two-day talks are taking place a week after EAC heads of state and government met in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt over the conflict and called for inclusive dialogue to as a means to bring peace to DRC’s restive east, home to over 130 armed groups.

The Congolese government accuses Rwanda of supporting the M23 rebel – allegations Kigali dismisses calling the conflict an intra-Congolese issue.

Kigali instead expressed concerns over the FARDC’s collaboration with FDLR, a Congo-based militia accused of genocide crimes in Rwanda. DR Congo army and the FDLR have shelled on the Rwanda territory three times this year while DR Congo’s fighter jet recent violated Rwanda’s airspace and briefly landed at Rubavu Airport.

The Kinshasa government expelled Rwanda’s ambassador in late October, further escalating the tensions.

The EAC talks follow the visit to Kigali and Kinshasa on Friday and Saturday by Angola’s President Joao Lourenco, who is the mediator between the two countries through the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR).

The statement said that the EAC presidents had committed to the involvement of all seven member states of the bloc.

However, it is not clear if the principle would apply to troop deployment of all EAC countries, given that DR Congo had objected to Rwanda’s involvement.

Nairobi talks set for November 21

In April this year, talks between the Congolese government and representatives of the armed groups operating the country’s eastern region started in Nairobi, Kenya at the invitation of the EAC.

The Nairobi process stalled after the Congolese government labelled the M23 as a terrorist movement following renewed fighting in May and banned them from the talks.

The EAC has since attempted to salvage the Nairobi process, calling for inclusivity in an apparent allusion to the M23. According to the EAC statement, the Nairobi talks, initially set for next week, will resume on November 21.

“The inter-Congolese dialogue under the EAC-led peace process has been re-energized to incorporate local DRC community leaders and stakeholders to bring a comprehensive solution to the protracted security situation,” the statement said.

However, it remains unclear whether the M23 will attend, given the fact that the Congolese government wants the rebels to withdraw from the occupied territories – which the group says is impossible.


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