The former president of Kenya and the president of Rwanda have agreed that the M23 rebels should stop fighting and leave the eastern part of the DRC.
Former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Rwandan President Paul Kagame have agreed for the M23 rebels to stop fighting and withdraw from the occupied territories in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), according to the East African Community. (EAC).
Kenyatta and Kagame both agreed by telephone “on the need for a ceasefire,” the EAC said on Friday. The second round of talks will be held in the Angolan capital Luanda next week, it said.
“People are waiting to see if M23 and Congolese government forces stop fighting,” Al Jazeera’s Malcolm Webb said in Goma, the capital of DRC’s eastern North Kivu province.
He added that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kenya also confirmed that there is a phone call between the president of Rwanda and Kenyatta who has been a mediator in the peace talks between the DRC and the rebels.
They have been fighting even for the last 12 hours. “There have been reports of gunfire and bombs going off and if they can get out of these areas before the talks start Monday morning,” Webb said.
M23 rebels have made significant gains in recent weeks, moving towards Goma as clashes with government forces intensify.
Formed in 2012, the M23 rebels seized large swathes of territory that same year and briefly conquered Goma before being driven out by Congolese forces and the United Nations into Uganda and Rwanda the following year.
M23 signed a peace agreement in 2013 and many of its fighters joined the DRC army.
The army resumed fighting in late 2021 after years of dormancy.
They have carried out three major attacks since March – the latest, since late October, has killed hundreds of people and displaced nearly 200,000.
The riots sparked tensions between the DRC and Rwanda, which Kinshasa accuses of supporting the rebels. Rwanda denies the charge. Last month, the DRC expelled the Rwandan ambassador over the matter.
Regional efforts are underway to improve the relationship between the two countries and resolve the tensions that are taking place on their borders.
Kenyatta visited the DRC earlier this week as a facilitator for the EAC-led talks. He held meetings in Kinshasa and visited refugees in Goma, where the M23 approached this week.
Angolan President Joao Lourenco brokered the first meeting between DRC and Rwandan officials earlier this month.
“It is encouraging to see Paul Kagame realizing that he can influence the M23 movement,” Congolese Vice President Felix Tshisekedi told Reuters.
“We will see what happens on the ground,” he added.
A Rwandan government spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.