- The meeting comes as the fighting rekindles animosities between Kinshasa and Kigali.
- The DRC blames neighboring Rwanda for the recent resurgence of M23.
- The Kenyan President calls for the deployment of a regional EAC force.
Leaders of seven nations making up the East African Community bloc will meet on Monday to discuss the security situation in the violence-torn eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the Kenyan presidency announced.
The meeting comes as heavy fighting rekindles decades-old animosities between Kinshasa and Kigali, with the DRC blaming neighboring Rwanda for the recent resurgence of the M23 rebel group.
Rwanda has repeatedly denied supporting the rebels while the two countries have accused each other of carrying out cross-border bombings.
People in eastern DRC “have long suffered and continue to pay a disproportionately heavy price in lives, property and elusive peace,” Kenya’s presidency said in a statement announcing Monday’s meeting in Nairobi.
On Wednesday, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta called for the deployment of a regional EAC force to eastern DRC to restore peace, but Kinshasa said it would not accept Rwanda’s participation in the operation.
DRC President Felix Tshisekedi accused Rwanda of seeking “to occupy our land, rich in gold, coltan and cobalt, for their own exploitation and profit” and urged the international community to condemn Kigali.
EAC regional commanders were due to meet on Sunday to finalize preparations for the deployment of the joint force.
A UN force, known by its French acronym MONUSCO, is already operating in the DRC.
Kenyatta said the regional force will work alongside local provincial authorities and in close coordination with MONUSCO to disarm anyone carrying illegal firearms.
The mineral-rich DRC is struggling to contain dozens of armed groups in the vast nation’s east, many of which are a legacy of two regional wars a quarter century ago.
A mainly Tutsi Congolese militia, the M23 or “March 23 Movement”, claimed control of the key town of Bunagana this week, forcing thousands to flee their homes.
The militia gained global notoriety in 2012 when it captured Goma.
He was driven out soon after in a joint offensive by UN troops and the Congolese army.
The group took up arms again at the end of November after accusing the Kinshasa government of not respecting a 2009 agreement providing for the incorporation of its fighters into the army.
Relations between Kinshasa and Kigali have been strained since the massive arrival in the DRC of Rwandan Hutus accused of having massacred Tutsis during the Rwandan genocide of 1994.