Ceasefire in eastern DRC to begin from Friday

    African leaders have declared a cessation of hostilities, in particular attacks by the M23 rebel group, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo starting this Friday, they said in a joint statement after holding talks in Angola.

    Wednesday's development comes on the heels of the East African Community's (EAC) statement last Friday, when Kenya's former president Uhuru Kenyatta and Rwanda's President Paul Kagame agreed on the need for M23 rebels to cease fire and withdraw from captured territories in east Congo.

    M23 rebels have waged several offensives in east Congo this year, their first major come-back since 2012, prompting clashes with the army that have displaced thousands of civilians since March.

    The unrest ignited diplomatic tensions between DRC and neighbouring Rwanda, which Congo accuses of backing the group. Rwanda denies the accusation.

    Regional efforts have since been underway to ease relations between the two countries and end the conflict unfolding along their border.

    Kenyatta visited DRC last week as facilitator for the seven-member EAC and African Union peace envoy.

    He had meetings in Kinshasa and visited displaced people in the key eastern city of Goma, to which the M23 drew closer this week.

    Upon his return, Kenyatta and Kagame both agreed via telephone "on the need for an immediate ceasefire", the EAC said in a statement.

    Kagame also agreed to assist Kenyatta in urging the M23 to lay down arms and withdraw from captured territories, the statement added.

    Angola's President Joao Lourenco mediated a first meeting between DRC and Rwanda officials earlier this month.

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    Evarist Chahali

    Evarist Chahali

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