Immediately ending all hostilities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s east has been demanded by regional heads of state.
As the Congo and the neighboring Rwanda trade accusations of supporting armed rebels, tensions there have increased amid talk of war.
At the conclusion of the East African Community (EAC) summit in Burundi, a communique called for an end to hostilities.
Peter Mathuki, the EAC’s secretary general, declared: “All political parties must immediately halt hostilities.
“The withdrawal includes all foreign armed groups,” he continued, “and directed the chief of defense forces of all the East African Community partner states to meet urgently within the next week and set new timelines for the withdrawal and the commend appropriate deployment matrix in different parts of eastern DRC.”
The calls come in response to international concern that two countries, as they did in the late 1990s and early 2000s, could descend into a full-fledged conflict.
Last month, Rwanda fired on a military plane it claimed was infringing its airspace.
“The heads of state called upon parties to respect and implement all the summit’s decisions and agreed upon themselves that any further violations should be immediately reported and the summit will now take the charge of this process,” Mathuki said.
Congo has been accusing Rwanda of backing the M23 armed group, whose roots are in the ethnic strife in the area, for months, and prominent figures in the West have openly concurred.
The M23 is one of dozens of rebel groups operating in the mineral-rich eastern Congo. Rwanda accuses Congo of supporting yet another rebel group, but Congo denies this.