The M23 rebels have agreed to cease hostilities next week after recent fighting displaced thousands of residents in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, authorities have said.
According to international media reports, a statement by the Presidency in Angola said the deal was reached after days of mediation by President Joao Lourenco.
“The leadership of M23 rebels agreed to cease hostilities throughout the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo from 7:12 noon on Tuesday, March 7,” said the statement.
East African Community (EAC) leaders at a mini-summit in Ethiopia last month mandated that Angola and the bloc’s facilitator, former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, maintain contact with M23 leadership.
At a news conference in Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, Bintou Keita, the head of the United Nations mission in Congo (MONUSCO), confirmed the development.
“I salute the action of the AU mediator, Angolan President Joao Lourenco, which resulted on Friday in a commitment by the M23 to cease hostilities in eastern DRC,” she told reporters.
Fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has been simmering for decades as more than 120 groups fight for power, land and valuable mineral resources — while others try to defend their communities.
But it spiked in late 2021 when M23, which was largely dormant for nearly a decade, resurfaced and started capturing territory.
Since its reemergence in late 2021, the rebel group has occupied key towns in North Kivu province.
The fighting has heightened tensions between Rwanda and the neighbouring DR Congo government.
Kinshasa accuses Kigali of backing the rebel group, a charge Rwanda consistently denies.
Since last year, fighting between the M23 rebel group and government forces has displaced more than 600,000 people.
A cease-fire demanded by African leaders in the Angolan capital of Luanda last November was flouted within days.
Saturday’s statement said an ad hoc verification mechanism had been established to monitor compliance with the cessation of hostilities.
Lourenco urged the parties to respect the decisions of various summits on the peace and security process in eastern Congo.
A new timetable adopted by East African leaders last month gave all armed groups up to March 30 to withdraw from occupied areas.