The third round of talks on the conflict in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo started in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, on Monday.
Among those attending the dialogue were the Presidents of Kenya, Burundi and DR Congo, and former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is the facilitator of the peace process. They were flanked by observers from the African Union and United Nations, with DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi joined the discussions virtually.
Kenyatta said the main agenda of the talks in Nairobi were to create conducive conditions for the disarmament of armed groups, in addition to identifying the root cause of the conflict.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who addressed the meeting via video link, said participants must stay the course of the process and not allow the conflict to be a perennial problem, adding that the EAC block can count on Rwanda’s “full support” towards a lasting and permanent solution.
His neighboring counterpart from Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni said any group that was “adamant” and “does not want peace” in eastern DR Congo could be dealt with by a combination of a political and, if necessary, “military process”.
Kenyan President William Ruto said that the prospects of prosperity for the East African Community (EAC) and Africa, in general, would remain dim as long as there was no peace in eastern DR Congo.
He further submitted that EAC leaders must recognize that the operational environment of the East African Standby Force remains “charged with threats” from various armed groups and negative elements.
Ruto said he believes the East African regional force would complement the efforts of the DR Congo military (FARDC) in restoring peace and stability in eastern DR Congo. He added that Kenya would remain a loyal and dependable partner of the DR Congo.
Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye, who is also the chair of the East African Community, will officiate the inter-Congolese dialogue.
With facilitation from the EAC, the Nairobi talks are being held in an effort to bring peace to the vast country where nearly 100 armed groups have wreaked havoc for close to three decades.
Though the M23 rebels have called for direct talks with Kinshasa, the government has insisted that the rebels withdraw from occupied territories as a prerequisite for talks.
The Nairobi talks are taking place less than a week after a summit of regional leaders was held in Luanda, Angola where they signed a ceasefire in the ongoing conflict involving M23 and called on all other armed groups to disarm.
Last week was meant to be the deadline for the M23 rebels to withdraw from occupied territories in North Kivu province, which hasn’t been respected. The rebels instead announced that they had agreed on the ceasefire.
The EAC has established a regional force to restore peace in eastern DR Congo, with Kenyan troops already in Goma. At the Luanda summit, the leaders said they would approve the use of force if the armed groups do not disarm voluntarily.