Rwandan President Paul Kagame has joined calls for M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo to cease fire and withdraw from occupied territory, former Kenyan leader Uhuru Kenyatta has said.
Kenyatta, who stepped down in August, is now mediating the conflict in Congo’s most volatile eastern region on behalf of the seven-nation East African Community.
The fighting has displaced thousands of people and reignited regional tensions as M23, largely drawn from Congolese Tutsis, has seized control of North Kivu.
“Kenyatta, in talks with President Kagame, agreed on the need for an immediate ceasefire,” Kenyatta’s office said in a statement late Friday after a phone call between the two men.
“President Kagame also agreed to assist the EAC assistant in encouraging the M23 to cease fire and withdraw from the occupied territories,” he said in a statement issued in English.
Kinshasa accuses Rwanda of supporting M23, something UN experts and US officials have also pointed out in recent months.
Kigali disputes the charge and accuses Kinshasa of colluding with the FDLR, a former Rwandan Hutu rebel group formed in the DRC after the 1994 genocide of mainly Tutsis in Rwanda.
Kenyatta also spoke by phone with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and asked the United Nations to “increase humanitarian assistance” to internally displaced people in eastern DRC, the statement said.
The EAC has called for peace talks to be held in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, on November 21.
Kenya is sending about 900 troops to the DRC as part of a joint EAC force set up to help restore security in the east, with the first batch of troops arriving a week ago.
Over 120 armed groups operate across eastern Congo, many of them a legacy of regional wars that erupted at the turn of the century.
M23 first burst onto the scene in 2012 when it captured the main eastern city of Goma, before being driven out and going to ground.
But it resurfaced late last year, claiming Kinshasa had failed to keep promises to integrate its fighters into the army, among other things.