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African leaders agree on ‘immediate ceasefire’ in eastern DRC | conflict news

Regional African leaders including Rwanda and the DRC agree on a cessation of hostilities from Friday.

African leaders have announced a cessation of hostilities in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo from Friday, with the aim of ending fighting between Congolese troops and M23 rebels, according to a joint statement issued after talks in the Angolan capital Luanda.

Angolan Foreign Minister Tete Antonio announced on Wednesday that an agreement had been reached for an “immediate ceasefire” in the DRC at 6 pm (17:00 GMT) on Friday.

The statement, signed by the leaders of DR Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and Angola and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who mediated the crisis, said an East African regional force would intervene against M23 fighters in case of non-compliance.

Earlier this month, Kenyan troops were deployed in eastern DRC as part of a peacekeeping operation Seven-nation East African Community (EAC) bloc,

DR Congo has accused neighboring Rwanda of supporting the armed group M23, which Rwanda denies. Kinshasa also expelled Rwanda’s ambassador over alleged support for the M23 rebels, who have seized towns in the eastern DRC province of North Kivu.

A spokesperson for M23 was not immediately available for comment.

Al Jazeera’s Malcolm Webb, reporting from Goma in eastern DRC, said Rwandan President Paul Kagame did not attend the meeting in Luanda. Instead, Rwanda’s foreign minister joined talks with Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi along with other regional leaders.

Webb said the communiqué called for the M23 fighters to withdraw from the areas they held and disarm themselves and hand themselves over to the Congolese army.

nearly 300,000 people displaced

The United Nations says some 300,000 people have been displaced by fresh fighting that erupted last month. The Al Jazeera correspondent said the UN said displaced people should go home within seven days.

“Now people are waiting to see if the fight will really stop. Campaigners say they do not expect the M23 to withdraw without substantial military and diplomatic pressure on Rwanda,” Webb said.

The agreement came after DRC President Tshisekedi met Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta in Luanda as tensions between the neighbors escalated amid deadly violence along their border.

Prior to the talks, members of the UN Security Council called for a halt to the fighting, for the M23 to withdraw from the occupied territories and for an end to “all external support to non-state armed actors, including the M23”.

M23, a largely Congolese Tutsi militia, has seized areas of North Kivu province, advancing towards Goma, the region’s main city.

The DRC and Rwanda agreed on a de-escalation plan in July, but conflict flared up again the very next day.

On Tuesday, Kinshasa said it would not hold talks with M23 rebels until the group withdrew from areas under its control.

M23 first leapt to prominence 10 years ago, when it captured Goma before being driven out.

It re-emerged late last year, claiming that the DRC had failed to honor a pledge to demobilize its fighters, among other complaints.

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