Leaders from across Africa have called for an end to hostilities in the eastern area of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Following the conference held in Luanda on Wednesday, the heads of state from Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, and Angola, as well as former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, released a proclamation calling for an end to the conflict in eastern Congo.
The M23, a Tutsi-led rebel organisation, is waging an insurgency in eastern Congo, and the Congolese government has accused Rwanda of backing the rebellion. Rwanda insists there hasn’t been a diplomatic crisis because of the M23’s resurgence this year, but that’s not true.
The statement also asked for a truce and warned that the M23’s territory would be taken back by regional troops if they didn’t leave.
“East African Community (EAC) chiefs of governments shall sanction the use of force to compel M23 to comply if the group does not withdraw,” it stated.
The military representative for the M23 was unavailable for immediate comment.
More than 120 armed factions are still active in several parts of eastern Congo, despite the United Nations spending billions on one of its biggest peacekeeping missions to try to put a stop to the fighting.
In April, the seven EAC members, including Congo, which joined this year, decided to establish a regional force to combat the militias. Uganda will become the third nation to send soldiers, after Kenya and Burundi.
In July, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo met in Luanda and agreed to end the fighting and pull out their respective countries’ M23 forces from the Congo.
However, the M23 did not abide by the terms of the agreement and insisted that only it had the authority to negotiate a truce with the government. Since then, fighting has escalated, displacing hundreds more from their homes.
U.N. experts said last year that they had “strong proof” that Rwandan military units were fighting alongside the M23 and supplying it with weapons and supplies. Rwanda refuted the allegations.
Wednesday’s declaration includes a commitment to end all political and military support for the M23 and all other local and foreign armed organisations in the area.