Africa regional blocs' leaders demand unconditional withdrawal of armed groups from Congo

Africa regional blocs' leaders demand unconditional withdrawal of armed groups from Congo

Summit calls for creation of humanitarian corridors

By James Tasamba

KIGALI, Rwanda (AA) – Leaders of Africa’s regional blocs made a fresh demand on Wednesday for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all armed groups from eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, in particular the M23 rebel group.

The call was made by the leaders of the East African Community (EAC), the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in a statement issued following a summit Tuesday in Angola’s capital Luanda convened to discuss the security situation in eastern DR Congo.

The summit expressed concern over the “insecurity and humanitarian situation” in the Central African country exacerbated by the “criminal activities of armed and terrorist groups,” the statement said.

In this regard, it “demands the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all armed groups, in particular the M23,” it said.

Other rebel groups cited included Uganda’s Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and Rwanda’s Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

The summit faulted the M23 for its non-compliance to withdraw from the occupied territories as required under the Luanda peace roadmap of Nov. 23, 2022.

The summit also called for the creation of humanitarian corridors.

Joao Lourenco, Angola's president and the current chairman of the ICGLR, reiterated his call to DR Congo and Rwanda to normalize their political-diplomatic relations.

Comoros President and African Union chairperson Azali Assoumani called for unified efforts to achieve peace in DR Congo and to prevent the security crisis from spreading to other countries in the region.

Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi attended the meeting, while Rwanda was represented by Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta.

A report of the UN Group of Experts last week accused Kigali of backing Congolese M23 rebels, a charge Rwanda dismissed, saying it “depended on questionable evidence as well as unreliable sources.”

Kinshasa has accused Kigali of backing the rebel group since its resurgence in November 2021, a charge Rwanda consistently denies.

Kigali has in turn accused the Congolese army of allying with the FDLR, whose elements are accused of participating in the 1994 genocide against Tutsi ethnic group.

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