DR Congo govt, rebels to meet in January: East Africa bloc

AFP , Tuesday 6 Dec 2022

The Democratic Republic of Congo's government will hold its next round of peace talks with rebels under the aegis of the East African Community in January in the eastern DRC, the seven-nation bloc announced Tuesday.

Congo
An escort of Kenyan and Congolese military personnel stands guard at the airport. AFP

 

The EAC statement came as the bloc wrapped up eight days of discussions in Kenya's capital Nairobi that involved the representatives of around 50 armed groups active in the volatile, mineral-rich eastern DRC.

But the M23 rebel group, which is leading an offensive in the region and which Kinshasa describes as a "terrorist" movement, did not take part in these talks.

The next meeting will "be held in Goma and Bunia to assess the progress (made)... and to begin engagements on the medium and long-term peace agenda", the EAC, which is mediating the talks, said in a statement.

The participants also reiterated their commitment to "a cessation of hostilities as well as the release of child soldiers and access to humanitarian aid", the statement added.

"We are happy with the progress we have made. We are not saying we have completed everything, but we have managed to achieve some milestones," said Kenya's former president Uhuru Kenyatta, who is facilitating the dialogue.

"I am hopeful that when we meet again in Goma -- that should be between January and February -- we can report progress on the items we have agreed upon here," he added, without elaborating further.

M23 resurgence

The announcement comes as the eastern DRC experiences a resurgence of violence, with Kinshasa on Monday accusing the M23 militia of massacring around 300 civilians at the end of November, shortly after a truce was agreed.

The mostly Congolese Tutsi group resumed fighting in late 2021 after lying dormant for years, setting off a crisis in eastern DRC and leading to a spike in tensions with neighbouring Rwanda, which Kinshasa accuses of backing the rebels.

Kigali has denied the allegations, which have also been backed by the United States and experts for the United Nations.

Talks between the DRC and Rwanda in the Angolan capital Luanda resulted in a truce agreement on November 23.

The ceasefire was scheduled to take effect on November 25. It should have also been followed by a pullout by the M23 two days later from territory it had seized, but this did not happen.

The EAC has also set up a joint regional force to bring peace to the region, with Kenyan troops arriving in the DRC last month.

The M23 first leapt to prominence 10 years ago when it captured Goma in 2012, before being driven out and going to ground.

But it re-emerged late last year, claiming the DRC had failed to honour a pledge to integrate its fighters into the army, among other grievances.

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