Luanda, 7 July 2022 (TDI): Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda agreed to initiate an immediate de-escalation process to reduce tensions over the resurgent offensives of the M23 rebel group following monumental Angola-brokered talks.

Highlights of the Luanda Tripartite Summit

The two officials bilaterally met for the first time since the escalation of hostilities following M23 2022 offensive.

In a statement on Twitter, the office of the Congolese Presidency reported the two countries have agreed to de-escalate tensions over rebel fighting in Eastern DR Congo at the Summit.

President Tshisekedi’s office added that the two have also reached an agreement on normalizing diplomatic relations.

There will also be a complete cessation of hostilities and the “immediate and unconditional withdrawal” of the M23 rebel group from its positions in eastern DR Congo. The two countries will also revive a Congo-Rwanda Commission to this end which will function in the Angolan capital, Luanda.

President Joao Lourenco of Angola, the mediator at the Summit and incumbent chairperson of the African Union, announced that the two countries have reached a ceasefire.

“I am pleased to announce that we have had positive results, in our view, in that we have agreed on a ceasefire, among other measures,” Lourenco said in remarks at the end of the Summit in Luanda.

Rwanda’s official broadcasting agency issued statements on the matter on Twitter. It added that the two countries have agreed on a “roadmap” to deescalate hostilities.

Additionally, the rebel fighting caused by M23 would be dealt with domestically within the Nairobi Process. The Nairobi Process is an initiative of the East African Community (EAS) to deescalate tensions in the region, especially between DR Congo and Rwanda.

The Rwandan President’s Spokesperson announced that the two countries also reached a commitment to defeat the rebel group “the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR)”. The group is an ethnic Hutu militia that Kigali has accused of fighting alongside Congo’s army.

M23 Offensive of 2022 and the Nairobi Process

Diplomatic tensions have risen sharply between DR Congo and Rwanda since the M23 rebel group began a major offensive in Congo’s eastern borderlands at the end of March 2022.

The rebel group captured its most significant territory, since capturing swathes of territory, in June when they seized Congo’s eastern town of Bunagana.

Bunagana was an M23 stronghold during a 2012 insurrection that briefly overran the major city of Goma before Congolese and U.N. forces chased the rebels out of the territory.

The two countries have been in a diplomatic spat over the support of rebel groups. Rwanda denies supporting the M23 and accuses Congo of collaborating with another militia group, the FDLR, founded by ethnic Hutus who fled Rwanda after participating in the 1994 genocide. Congo denies this charge.

Both countries had earlier participated in the Nairobi Process under the East African Community (EAS) which also brought together the M23 rebel group.

Congo had accepted a proposal reached under the Nairobi Process for an East African regional force to be deployed in its east to help control the violence, but only if Rwanda does not participate in the forces.

The country subsequently also broke off negotiations with the M23 rebel group taking place in Kenya under the Nairobi Process. Although significant, the Nairobi Process could not help de-escalate tensions between the two countries.

An Issue of Global Priority

Since the escalation of hostilities between the two countries over the M23 rebel group, the international community and regional stakeholders have raised concerns about the region’s future.

A spokesperson for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was concerned about deteriorating security in eastern Congo, including the M23 attacks. The region has seen near-constant conflict since Rwanda and Uganda invaded twice in the 1990s.

African Union Commission Chair Moussa Faki Mahamat had also called for an immediate cessation of hostilities and for talks between Congo and Rwanda to resolve the growing diplomatic crisis.

The Angolan President and the current chairperson of the African Union have also been a key force in brokering a dialogue between the two countries which took place recently in the country’s capital Luanda.

African Union’s efforts in de-escalating tensions have been lauded worldwide including by the European Union.

About 170,000 people have also been displaced in the weeks since M23 resurfaced in eastern DR Congo as reported by UN Refugee Agency. The Luanda Tripartite Summit has therefore also called for the return of all refugees to their countries of origin.