East African leaders agree regional force to quell DR Congo crisis | News

The decision comes as hostilities restart in the northeast of the DRC, with Kinshasa blaming Rwanda for backing the M23 rebels.

Leaders of the East African Community (EAC) have agreed to send a regional force to the Democratic Republic of Congo to quell the latest outbreak of violence sweeping the northeast of the country.

The decision was made Monday during an EAC summit in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. DRC President Felix Tshisekedi and Rwandan President Paul Kagame were joined by the leaders of Burundi, Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda as well as the Tanzanian ambassador to Kenya.

“The heads of state have instructed that regional forces, in coordination with the military and administrative forces of the DRC, seek to stabilize and ensure peace in the DRC,” read the statement.

It also called for an “immediate ceasefire”.

The regional force received the operational mandate and outlined its operational structure, the statement said, without providing further details.

“Issues affecting the region such as the crisis in the Congo need a collective approach from all regional members of the East African Community,” Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said after the meeting.

“We have to be determined to work together because these people have suffered so much,” he added on Twitter.

His government has sent troops to help Congolese forces fight the Allied Democratic Forces, an armed group blamed for thousands of deaths in the eastern DRC and a series of bombings in the capital, Kampala of Uganda.

The meeting came as fierce fighting revived decades of animosity between Kinshasa and Kigali, with the DRC blaming neighboring Rwanda for the recent resurgence of the M23 militia.

Rwanda has repeatedly denied supporting the rebels, while both countries accuse each other of doing it cross-border shelling.

Tshisekedi accused Rwanda of seeking to “take over our land, rich in gold, coltan and cobalt, to mine it and make its own profit” and called on the international community to condemn Kigali.

In particular, he urged Britain to “put pressure on Rwanda to withdraw its troops from our land”, noting London’s controversial agreement to send asylum seekers to Kigali.

“With the UK’s recent $150 million immigration deal with Rwanda, we hope that Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be able to leverage his influence,” said Tshisekedi.

Rwanda will host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting this week.

The mineral-rich DRC is struggling to contain dozens of armed groups in the east of the vast nation, many of which are the legacy of two regional wars a quarter of a century ago.

The M23 or “March 23 Movement”, mainly led by Tutsis, gained global notoriety in 2012 when it captured Goma, on the border with Rwanda. It was coerced shortly thereafter in a joint attack by UN and Congolese troops.

The group took up arms again at the end of Novemberafter accusing the Kinshasa government of failing to honor a 2009 agreement regarding the incorporation of its fighters into the army.

Relations between Kinshasa and Kigali have been strained since the mass appearance of the Rwandan Hutus accused of killing Tutsis during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in the DRC.

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