The Community of East African States (EAC) announced Tuesday that armed groups and the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will hold peace talks in January in eastern DRC, following three previous meetings in Kenya.
This announcement was made at the end of the third session of the “inter-Congolese dialogue”, which brought together for eight days in Nairobi representatives of some 50 armed groups, the government and civil society.
The M23 rebellion, which is leading an offensive in the east of the country and which Kinshasa describes as a “terrorist” movement, is not participating in these discussions.
“A meeting will be held in January in Goma and Bunia to assess progress and begin to address the medium and long-term agenda,” the EAC, which is mediating the talks, said in a statement.
Participants also reiterated their agreement to a “continued cessation of hostilities as well as the release of child soldiers and humanitarian access,” the organization added.
“We are pleased with the progress we have made. We are not saying that we have finished everything, but we have passed certain stages,” said, without further details, former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is working as a “facilitator” of the Nairobi process.
“I hope that when we meet again in Goma – that should be between January and February – we can report on the progress on the points we agreed on here,” he added.
This third meeting is being held at a time of renewed violence in eastern DRC with an offensive by the M23, which Kinshasa accused on Monday of having massacred some 300 civilians in late November. The fighting is the subject of separate negotiations hosted by Angola.
A former Tutsi rebellion defeated in 2013, the M23 took up arms again in November 2021 and in recent months has conquered large swathes of territory north of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province.
The recent M23 offensive is fuelling diplomatic tensions between the DRC and Rwanda, both members of the EAC.
Kinshasa accuses Rwanda of providing support to the M23, which UN experts and U.S. officials have also pointed to in recent months. Kigali disputes this, accusing Kinshasa of colluding with the FDLR, Rwandan Hutu rebels who have been in DR Congo since the 1994 genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda.