By Spy Uganda
Kenya’s former President Uhuru Kenyatta and Rwandan leader Paul Kagame have agreed on the need for M23 rebels to cease fire and withdraw from captured territories in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), according to the East African Community (EAC) bloc.
Kenyatta and Kagame both agreed via telephone “on the need for an immediate ceasefire”, the EAC said in a statement. A second round of talks will take place in Angola’s capital Luanda next week, it said.
M23 fighters have made considerable gains in recent weeks, advancing towards Goma as fighting with government forces intensifies.
Formed in 2012, the M23 rebels seized vast swathes of territory the same year and briefly overran Goma before they were chased out by Congolese and United Nations forces into Uganda and Rwanda the following year.
The M23 signed a peace deal in 2013 after which many of its fighters were integrated into the DRC army.
The armed group started fighting again in late 2021 after lying dormant for years.
They have staged three big offensives since March – the latest, starting at the end of October, has killed hundreds of people and displaced nearly 200,000.
The unrest ignited diplomatic tensions between the DRC and Rwanda, which Kinshasa accuses of backing the rebels. Rwanda denies the accusation. Last month, the DRC expelled a Rwandan ambassador over the issue.
Regional efforts are under way to ease relations between the two countries and end the conflict unfolding along their border.
Kenyatta visited the DRC earlier this week as facilitator of the EAC-led talks. He had meetings in Kinshasa and visited displaced people in Goma, to which the M23 drew closer this week.
Angola’s President Joao Lourenco mediated a first meeting between DRC and Rwandan officials earlier this month.
“It is encouraging to see Paul Kagame recognise that he can influence the M23,” Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi’s deputy spokesperson said.
“We will see what happens on the ground,” she added.