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Kinshasa — Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC’s) President Felix Tshisekedi and his Rwandan counterpart, Paul Kagame, have agreed at a summit in Angola to de-escalate tensions from a rebel insurgency, the Congolese presidency said on Wednesday.
Diplomatic tensions have risen sharply between the neighbours since the M23 rebel group began a major offensive in the DRC’s eastern borderlands at the end of March.
Ahead of the talks, Tshisekedi had warned of war between the neighbours if the situation was not resolved.
The DRC has accused Rwanda of backing the group. Rwanda denies this, and in turn has accused Kinshasa of fighting alongside another armed group intent on seizing power in Kigali.
Angolan President Joao Lourenco was appointed by the AU to mediate talks, and hosted a mini tripartite summit in Angola’s capital, Luanda, on Wednesday.
“The tripartite decided on a process of de-escalation between Congo and Rwanda,” the Congolese presidency said in a statement posted on Twitter after the summit concluded.
It said the agreement included an immediate cessation of hostilities and the retreat of M23 fighters from the DRC. A Rwanda-DRC commission that had previously been dormant will meet again in Luanda on July 12, it said.
Angola’s presidency issued a similar statement to the Congolese one. There was no immediate statement from Kagame, and Rwanda's government spokesperson could not be reached for comment.
The M23 last month seized an important border post in their most sustained offensive since capturing swathes of territory in 2012/2013.
The DRC has accepted a proposal for an East African regional force to be deployed in its east to help control the violence, but only if Rwanda does not take part.
The fighting has forced tens of thousands to flee their homes in an area that has had little respite from conflict since Rwanda and neighbouring Uganda invaded in 1996, citing threats from local militia groups.
Despite billions of dollars spent on one of the UN’s largest peacekeeping forces, more than 120 rebel groups continue to operate across eastern DRC almost two decades after the official end of the central African country’s civil wars.
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