Kenyatta, Kagame Agree On M23 Ceasefire, Withdrawal From Bunagana

Former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has agreed with Rwandan leader, Paul Kagame to compel the M23 rebels to withdraw from Bunagana and other areas captured by the insurgents.

Kenyatta, who is the East African Community (EAC) facilitator of the peace process aimed at finding a political solution to the crisis in Eastern DRC, has been holding consultative meetings in Kinshasa and Goma where he also visited Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).

In a statement on Friday night, Kenyatta said he held a telephone call with Kagame, United Nations Secretary General Antonia Guterres, Burundi leader, Evariste Ndayishimiye and DRC President Felix Tshisekedi.

Kenyatta, according to a statement released by his office, “briefed Kagame on his trip to Goma and the appalling situation he witnessed in the IDP camp.”

Both leaders “agreed on the need to implement and adopt the recommendations of the EACOP chiefs of defense and in particular the need for the regional force to immediately take over and secure recently captured areas by the M23 in the North Kivu region and ensure peace, stability and safety for civilians is restored in the area.”

Kenyatta, in a phone call with Kagame, agreed on the “need for an immediate ceasefire and president Kagame also agreed to assist the EAC facilitator to urge the M23 to a ceasefire and withdrawal from captured territories in line with proposals given by regional Chief of Defence forces in their meeting in Bujumbura.”

Kinshasa, accuses Rwanda of arming M23 rebels to destabilize North Kivu for economic exploitation, an accusation Kigali denies.

DRC Government’s spokesperson Patrick Muyaya said his country doesn’t intend to hold talk with ‘terrorists’, saying M23 must surrender and vacate seized territories or face military action.

Kigali accuses DRC’s armed forces of fighting alongside the FDLR militia whose past leadership and ideology are blamed for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Kigali further blames the Congolese government officials for promoting hate speech against Kinyarwanda-speaking communities and shelling Rwandan territory with rockets.

The bad blood between the two countries has escalated security tensions between Rwanda and DRC, raising the prospect of an armed conflict.

DRC President Felix Tshisekedi recently ordered the army to recruit thousands of soldiers and deployed fighter jets to counter the M23 threat.

As of Friday evening, Congolese forces are said to have liberated several settlements which had been taken by the M23 movement along the Bunagana-Goma road.

Regional leaders recently ordered M23 rebels to lay down weapons, vacate captured territories including Bunagana border town and embrace a peace process to find lasting solutions to North Kivu’s security problems.

The M23 has since refused to surrender or relinquish seized areas and threatened to capture the provincial city of Goma.

Kenya has since deployed over 200 troops in Goma to counter the M23 rebel threat.

Uganda on Thursday said its troops will join their kenyan counterparts in Goma as soon as possible.

Observers say fearing a humiliating defeat at the hands of the regional force as it happened in 2013, the rebels could have decided to call it quits.

But regional leaders intend to take drastic measures to ensure the M23 rebel threat is permanently dealt with. The takeover of Bunagana disrupted regional trade and sparked a huge refugee influx into Uganda.

Meeting the United Nations Security Council in Kampala this week, Museveni said he was in full support of the East African standby Force, saying nobody will defy it if it receives full support of Kinshasa.

Museveni gave an example of Idi Amin who was removed by the regional force which also in collaboration with other forces in the region, defeated the Portuguese in 1974, the Boers in South Africa and Namibia and Burundi’s ex-President Pierre Buyoya, who was forced to negotiate with the Hutus after sanctions were put on him.

“Don’t ignore East Africa. Once East Africa gets involved, nobody can defy us. For us we are here and we can see, there’s no way anybody can deceive us,” the President said.

“There are possible approaches of using force against external armed groups and dialogue first, for internal Congolese groups before applying force and Congo will be helped to re-establish control,” he added.

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