East Africa bloc announces peace talks for eastern DRC

 The announcement came as Congolese troops clashed anew with the M23 north of the city of Goma in the volatile east.

On Sunday, politicians from East Africa announced plans to hold peace talks in an effort to stabilize the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where M23 rebels clashed with troops just to the north of the city of Goma over the weekend.

Reuters Photo

On November 21st, the capital of Kenya, Nairobi, will host a "peace dialogue" on the situation in eastern DRC, as announced by the East African Community (EAC), a group of seven countries.

Government officials made the declaration as they reported renewed fighting between Congolese military and the M23 to the north of the region's capital, Goma.

The military reportedly engaged the M23 in the village of Mwaro, located approximately 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of Goma, a commercial hub with a population of one million.

One military official said to the AFP news agency, "We woke up to fighting this morning."

Another said the situation was complex, with M23 fighters killed “en masse” and dead on the Congolese army’s side too.

According to locals and security officials, deadly battles continued till Sunday night in Kibumba, another settlement some 20 kilometers from Goma.

According to a report by Al Jazeera's Malcolm Webb, government forces in the Congo were able to turn back an onslaught by M23 on the town of Cuba after more than a day of intense battle.

Soldiers from Rwanda and Uganda are reportedly among the foes of the North Congress army of the Congo. The rebel group is widely understood to be a proxy of Rwanda, although Rwanda denies it. And so, people have fled…to try and get away from the fighting.”

"meanwhile, community leaders on the other side of the frontline have told us that approximately 60,000 people are stuck behind the frontline in the territory held by the M23 rebel group and that they want a humanitarian corridor to be created so that they can leave that area before the fighting gets closer to them," Webb said.

In recent months, M23 insurgents have made significant territorial gains against the DRC army in North Kivu region.

The Congolese army was blamed for "barbarian explosions" on Saturday, in which 15 civilians, including two children, were killed. There was no way for Al Jazeera to verify the dead toll without assistance.

The current outbreak of violence occurs just one day after Kenyan troops were sent to the eastern DRC as part of a peacekeeping operation by the EAC grouping.

The M23 is a Tutsi-dominated militia originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo that rose to notoriety in 2012 when it briefly occupied the city of Goma before being pushed back.

In late 2021, the organization reemerged and resumed armed conflict over, among other things, the DRC's alleged failure to fulfill a pledge to incorporate them into the army.

Kinshasa accuses Rwanda, the DRC's smaller neighbor, of supporting the M23, and as a result, relations between the two countries have deteriorated.

The Rwandan government has consistently denied any connection between the government there and the M23, but in August, AFP obtained a copy of an unreleased United Nations assessment that seemed to indicate otherwise.

Towards the end of last month, when the M23 took over more territory, Kinshasa dismissed Rwanda's ambassador and recalled its own envoy from Kigali.

The rising tensions have prompted a renewed diplomatic push to find a peaceful solution.

For instance, on Saturday, after visiting Rwanda the day before, Angolan President Joao Lourenco met with Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi in Kinshasa.

EAC mediator and former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta was scheduled to arrive in Kinshasa on Sunday.

On Sunday, the EAC announced that this month's peace discussions between the parties involved in the eastern DRC would be held in Nairobi. However, neither the participants nor the duration of the talks were specified.

This statement follows the weekend's arrival of Kenyan troops in Goma as part of an East African Community (EAC) regional peacekeeping mission established in April.

Kenya's legislature has given the green light to send out roughly 900 troops for a six-month mission. Despite the fact that Kenyans will be in charge, details about the force's composition and mandate are still sketchy.

Burundi contributed to the regional force in the DRC in August.

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo withdrew its troops from the eastern military station of Rumangabo earlier this month, giving the M23 an important strategic advantage.


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