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African leaders agree to cease fire in eastern Congo from Friday – SABC News


African leaders have announced a cease-fire in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo starting Friday, which is specifically aimed at ending attacks by the M23 rebel group, they said in a statement.

The declaration was issued by the leaders of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and Angola, as well as former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, after a summit in Luanda on Wednesday aimed at finding solutions to the crisis in eastern Congo.

Eastern Congo is facing an insurgency by M23, a Tutsi rebel group that the Congolese government says is backed by neighboring Rwanda.

Rwanda denies it, but the resurgence of M23 this year has caused a major diplomatic crisis.

In addition to the ceasefire, the statement said M23 must withdraw from occupied territories or face intervention by regional forces.

“If M23 does not withdraw from the East African Community (EAC), heads of state will authorize the use of force to force the group into submission,” it said.

A military spokesman for M23 could not be reached for comment.

Despite billions of dollars spent on one of the United Nations’ largest peacekeeping forces, more than 120 armed groups continue to operate in large swaths of eastern Congo.

The seven EAC countries, which Congo joined this year, agreed in April to create a regional force to fight the militias.

Uganda will be the third country to deploy troops after Kenya and Burundi.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame and his Congolese counterpart Felix Tsisekedi also met in Luanda in July and agreed on an immediate end to hostilities and the withdrawal of M23 fighter jets from Congo.

But the M23 did not respect this agreement, saying that only it could sign a truce with the government. Since then, fighting has continued, thousands of people have been forced to leave their homes.

A UN panel of experts said this year it had “solid evidence” that Rwandan troops were fighting alongside M23 and providing it with weapons and support.

Rwanda denies these claims.

The statement released on Wednesday included an agreement to end military-political support for M23 and all other local and foreign armed groups in the region.

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