Regional African leaders, including those from Rwanda and DRC, have agreed on a cessation of hostilities from Friday.
African leaders have halted hostilities in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo from Friday, according to a joint statement released after talks in the Angolan capital Luanda aimed at ending fighting between Congolese troops and M23 rebels.
An agreement was reached at 6pm (5pm GMT) on Friday for an “immediate ceasefire” in the DRC, Angolan Foreign Minister Tete António announced on Wednesday.
An East African regional force will act against the M23 fighters in case of non-compliance, said the statement signed by the leaders of DR Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and Angola, and by former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, who has led the crisis mediated.
Earlier this month, Kenyan troops were deployed to eastern DRC as part of a peacekeeping operation by the bloc of seven countries of the East African Community (EAC)..
DR Congo has accused neighboring Rwanda of supporting the M23 armed group, which Rwanda has denied. Kinshasa has also expelled Rwanda’s ambassador over his alleged support for M23 rebels, who have seized towns in the North Kivu province in eastern DRC.
A spokesperson for M23 was not immediately available for comment.
Al Jazeera’s Malcolm Webb, who reports from Goma in eastern DRC, said Rwandan President Paul Kagame did not attend the meeting in Luanda. Instead, Rwanda’s foreign minister participated in talks with Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi, along with other regional leaders.
Webb said the communiqué says M23 fighters must withdraw from the areas they occupy, disarm and surrender to Congolese forces.
Nearly 300,000 people have been displaced
Nearly 300,000 people have been displaced by the latest fighting, which broke out last month, according to the United Nations. The Al Jazeera correspondent said the UN said displaced persons should go home within seven days.
“Now people are waiting to see if the fighting will actually stop. Campaigners say they do not expect the M23 to withdraw without substantial military and diplomatic pressure on Rwanda,” Webb said.
The agreement comes after DRC President Tshisekedi met with Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta in Luanda as tensions between neighbors were running high amid deadly violence on their border.
Ahead of the talks, members of the UN Security Council called for an end to fighting, for the withdrawal of the M23 from occupied territories and for an end to “all external support to non-state armed actors, including the M23”.
The M23, a predominantly Congolese Tutsi militia, has taken over parts of the territory of North Kivu province towards the region’s capital, Goma.
The DRC and Rwanda agreed on a de-escalation plan in July, but clashes resumed the next day.
On Tuesday, Kinshasa said it would not talk to M23 rebels until the group pulled out of areas it controlled.
The M23 first came to prominence 10 years ago when it captured Goma, before being driven out.
It resurfaced late last year alleging that the DRC had failed to keep a promise to integrate its fighters into the army, among other grievances.