African leaders have directed an immediate cessation of hostilities in the eastern Congo where fighting has led to the loss of lives and property as well as mass displacements.
The leaders from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan, Congo, Burundi and Tanzania on Monday called on the armed groups to withdraw from recently taken positions, Xinhua news agency reported.
“In doing so, the political process should be intensified by all parties in order to allow the citizens of Congo feel safe and secure and be able to pick up and continue their respective social, cultural and economic activities,” the leaders said in a communique issued after the end of the day-long meeting in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
The leaders who met for the third East African Community (EAC) Heads of State conclave on inter-Congolese dialogue of the Nairobi process on the peace and security situation in Eastern Congo, directed that all offensive language, hate speech, threats of genocide and other politically inciting language must cease and must be discouraged by all parties.
They said the people of Congo must be encouraged to work together in order to stabilise eastern Congo for it to prosper.
“The conclave agreed and reinforced that trust and confidence-building, cessation of hostilities, unconditional ceasefire, participation in the political processes in the country, prioritisation and participation in the country’s development, citizenship, presence of foreign negative elements, fate of combatants during reintegration and status of refugees and internally displaced persons are among critical issues that require concerted, urgent and durable resolution,” they added.
The leaders committed to contribute to reconciliation and lasting peace and were determined to find a swift and lasting solution to the conflict in Congo, particularly in the North and South Kivu as well as Ituri provinces.
The leaders directed that the Regional Force should, in cooperation with the military and administrative forces of Congo, seek to stabilise and secure the peace in Congo.
“The Regional Force should also cooperate in implementation of the disarmament and demobilisation process,” the leaders said.
The latest efforts come amid diplomatic spat between Rwanda and Congo, with Kinshasa accusing Kigali of supporting the M23 rebels, who are responsible for the latest fighting that has forced thousands of people to flee to Uganda.
Regional analysts, however, say the Regional Force is likely to find it difficult to pacify the vast forested region that has many rebel groups with different interests.
The meeting was attended by Presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Paul Kagame (Rwanda), Evariste Ndayishimiye (Burundi), Salva Kiir Mayardit (south Sudan) and Felix Tshisekedi (Congo) while Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan was represented by Ambassador to Kenya.