AU Summit: Leaders rush to stem East DR Congo violence

Saturday February 17 2024

African Union (AU) Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat speaks during the 37th extraordinary AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on February 14, 2024. Photo | African Union (_AfricaUnion) via X.


Leaders from the Great Lakes Region are attempting to stem the latest violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), taking advantage of the African Union Summit in Ethiopia this weekend.

Coming on the backdrop of troubling deaths and displacements in Eastern DRC, Angola President Joao Lourenço who heads the Luanda Process, a dialogue bid for Rwanda and the DRC, has organised a sidelines meeting that brings together leaders from the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), a regional platform to push for peace in the Congo.

On Friday, DRC President Felix Tshisekedi arrived in Addis Ababa ahead of the 37th ordinary session of the African Union, his first major trip outside the country since his re-election in December.

A dispatch from his office said he will meet leaders from the Great Lakes region and East Africa. Tina Salama, spokeswoman for the Congolese president said a meeting is due to be held between the leaders of the region to discuss the war in the DR Congo and security in the region.

Read: Thousands flee as conflict intensifies in East DRC

"On the sidelines of the 37th Ordinary Session of the African Union, President Joao Lourenço, the designated mediator for peace talks (Luanda process) between Rwanda and the DRC, has convened an Extraordinary Mini-Summit in Addis Ababa on the peace and security situation prevailing in the eastern part of the DRC.”


It is expected will meet his regional counterparts involved in the search for peace in Congo, but the extraordinary meeting could also include the leaders of Rwanda, definitively their first meeting since last year in October before relations between them worsened.

Rwanda President Paul Kagame is also in Addis Ababa, but his office only indicated the leader would participate in the African Union Assembly session and other sidelines meetings but not directly mention one on the DRC conflict.

Given the deterioration of the war situation in North Kivu, it is not certain that the Congolese and Rwandans will agree to sit down around a table for talks in Addis Ababa.

The Congolese army and the M23 rebels have stepped up the fighting. Kinshasa accuses Kigali9 of supporting M23 which Rwanda refutes.

Troops from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have launched action support of the Congolese army but suffered their first casualties on Wednesday when 2 South African soldiers were killed in a mortar fire whose origin was not immediately determined.

Read: Mortar bomb kills 2 South African troops in Eastern DRC

In a letter sent to the President of the United Nations Security Council on 12 February, the Rwandan government asked the UN Stabilisation Mission in the Congo (Monusco) not to provide logistical support to the SADC mission deployed in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vincent Biruta, who signed the letter, believes that this support encourages the DRC to seek a military solution rather than a negotiated and peaceful one.

Virtually all countries and organisations are advocating a political solution to the crisis in the DRC. The Congolese authorities are demanding "the withdrawal of Rwandan troops from Congolese soil before talks can begin".

Congolese officials are also demanding that the rebels withdraw from occupied localities and confine themselves before opening any talks.

"The M23 retorts that without prior negotiation, there can be no cantonment.”