Goma – East African leaders on Sunday announced peace talks in a bid to stabilise eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where M23 rebels clashed with troops just north of the key city of Goma over the weekend.
The seven-nation East African Community (EAC) stated that it would hold a “peace dialogue” on eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on November 21, in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.
The announcement came as Congolese troops clashed anew with the M23 north of volatile region’s main city Goma, officials said.
Army sources said the military was engaging the M23 in Mwaro, a village about 20km (12 miles) north of the important commercial hub of one million people.
“We woke up to fighting this morning,” one army official told AFP.
M23 rebels have recently surged across the DRC’s North Kivu province, winning a string of victories against the army and capturing swathes of territory.
On Saturday, the group accused the Congolese army of retaliating with “barbarian bombings” — killing 15 civilians, including two children.
AFP was unable to independently confirm the death toll.
The latest violence comes one day after Kenyan troops deployed to eastern DRC, as part of a peacekeeping operation from the EAC bloc.
A mostly Congolese Tutsi group, the M23 first leapt to prominence in 2012 when it briefly captured Goma before being driven out and going to ground.
The group re-emerged in late 2021, taking up arms again on claims that the DRC had failed to honour a promise to integrate them into the army, among other grievances.
The M23’s resurgence has cratered relations between the DRC and its smaller neighbour Rwanda, which Kinshasa accuses of backing the militia.
Despite official denials from Kigali, an unpublished report for the United Nations seen by AFP in August pointed to Rwandan involvement with the M23.
Kinshasa expelled Rwanda’s ambassador at the end of last month, as the M23 captured more territory, while also recalling its envoy from Kigali.
The ratcheting tensions have spurred a bout of diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis.
Angolan President Joao Lourenco met Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi in the DRC’s capital on Saturday, for example, after visiting Rwanda the previous day.
On Sunday, Kenya’s ex-president Uhuru Kenyatta, the EAC’s mediator for the situation, was also due in Kinshasa for talks.
The EAC on Sunday said it would hold talks aimed at bringing peace to eastern DRC in Nairobi this month.
It did not specify who would take part in the talks nor how long they were scheduled to last.
The peace bid runs parallel to regional military efforts to stabilise eastern DRC.
In April, EAC leaders agreed to establish a joint force to help restore security in the mineral-rich central African nation.
Kenyan troops began to arrive in Goma over the weekend as part of that force, after the country’s parliament approved a deployment of just over 900 troops, for an initial period of six months.
The force will be under Kenyan command, however, its total size and scope remains unclear.