DR Congo and Rwanda agree to reduce tensions over M23 rebels

DRC says it has agreed ‘de-escalation process’ with Rwanda following weeks of rising tensions over rebel fighting.

Rwanda and Democratic Republic of the Congo have agreed to a “de-escalation process” following one-day talks between their presidents, mediated by Angola, amid rising tensions over the activities of the M23 rebel group, the Congolese presidency said.

The two countries will revive a Congo-Rwanda commission which will resume activities on July 12 in the Angolan capital, Luanda, the Congolese presidency said in a statement posted on Twitter on Wednesday.

It also called for a return to normal diplomatic relations between Kinshasa and Kigali, a cessation of hostilities and the “immediate and unconditional withdrawal” of the M23 rebel group from its positions in eastern DRC.

Angolan President Joao Lourenco was appointed by the African Union to mediate talks.

“I am pleased to announce that we have had positive results, in our view, in that we have agreed on a ceasefire, among other measures,” Lourenco said in remarks at the end of mini-tripartite summit attended by the DRC’s’s Felix Tshisekedi and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame in the Angolan capital Luanda.

There was no immediate word on the talks from Rwanda.

Rwanda and the DRC had traded angry statements stemming from allegations that Rwanda backs the M23, which is made up of mostly Tutsi fighters from the DRC. The M23 last month seized an important border post in their most sustained offensive since capturing swathes of territory in 2012-2013.

Rwanda in turn accuses the DRC of supporting a group of rebels with members who allegedly took part in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. Both countries deny the allegations.

The DRC has accepted a proposal for an East African regional force to be deployed in its east to help control the violence, but only if Rwanda does not take part.

The fighting has forced tens of thousands to flee their homes in an area that has had little respite from conflict since Rwanda and neighbouring Uganda invaded in 1996, citing threats from local militia groups.

About 170,000 people have been displaced in the weeks since M23 resurfaced in eastern DRC. Wednesday’s summit called for the return of all refugees to their countries of origin, according to the statement from the Congolese presidency.

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