East African heads of state agree in Burundi on a strengthened peace process for eastern DRC.

Archive – Children receiving WFP school meals in North Kivu (DRC) – WFP/LEONORA BAUMANN

The heads of state of the East African countries have agreed at the summit held last Saturday in Burundi to boost the peace process in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo by proposing a new «matrix» of initiatives, accompanied by the ratification of a cessation of hostilities by both the Congolese Army and the rebels of the March 23 Movement (M23).

In a communiqué ratified by the Congolese President, Felix Tshisekedi, and his Rwandan counterpart, Paul Kagame, representing the two countries involved in the conflict, the participants at the Buyumbura summit called once again for the «immediate cessation of hostilities on both sides» and the «strengthening of the political process» to negotiate a definitive end to hostilities.

The Heads of State also informed of the meeting, within a week, of the military leaders of the countries involved to «recommend an appropriate matrix for the implementation» of the future terms of the definitive cessation of the conflict in the North Kivu region.

The African leaders have also ratified their support for the road map agreed in Luanda (the capital of Angola) between the DRC and Rwanda to resolve the diplomatic crisis opened after the Congolese president accused his Rwandan counterpart of backing the major offensive led by the M23 in the region; accusations that Rwanda has categorically denied.

The conflict has escalated further in recent weeks after the armed group and the Congolese army resumed fighting on January 25, especially in the towns of Bwiza and Kitchanga.

Two days later, the rebels captured the latter locality and continued to advance, after generating a new population exodus estimated at 122,000 people who fled their homes in a single day, before the conquest of the armed group, according to Save the Children. Approximately 520,000 people have left the area of the fighting since the beginning of the rebel offensive in November 2021.

The European Union’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, has applauded the summit’s conclusions and, through a message on Twitter, called on «all parties to respect all the commitments made at this summit.»