A regional leaders’ ultimatum to the M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo to withdraw from North Kivu’s capital, Goma, expires Monday, according to a spokesman for Uganda’s government.
The heads of state met in an extraordinary summit over the weekend in Kampala to try to resolve the rebel crisis. They called on the rebels to “stop all war activities.”
“Among the key decisions they made was that the M23 leave Goma [within] 48 hours from Saturday, which means the deadline is today Monday, whereby they should leave Goma, and disembark 20 kilometers from Goma,” said spokesman Fred Opolot, who is also the executive director for Uganda’s Media Center.
“We are obviously observing how the situation will unfold on the ground in eastern DRC,” he continued.
Opolot says the regional leaders are hopeful that the Kinshasa government and representatives of the rebels could find a solution to resolve the conflict.
Among the decisions the heads of state made during the summit, Opolot says, “the DRC government was urged to listen, evaluate and resolve the legitimate grievances of the M23. The M23 was urged to stop expanding the war and stop talking of overthrowing an elected government of the DRC. The M23 was also asked to withdraw from their current position to the ground of tactical importance.”
“At Goma airport,” Opolot continued, “deploy a force comprising one company of a neutral force, one company of the DRC army and one company of the M23. They are supposed to guard the Goma airport.”
Opolot also said the heads of state called on the M23 to give back the arms they seized from the DRC police force in Goma to enable them maintain peace and security in the city.
He said the heads of state also urged the U.N. Peacekeeping Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) to move into the areas in Goma vacated by the rebels after the ultimatum expires.
“The U.N. force is urged to occupy and provide security in the neutral zone between Goma and the new areas occupied by the M23,” continued Opolot. “This process shall be supervised by the chiefs of defense of Rwanda, the DRC, and is going to be led by the chief of defense forces of Uganda, with the participation of chiefs of defense staff from other member states of the Great Lakes Region.”
The heads of the militaries in member states are expected to hold talks with representatives of the rebels to ensure they abide by the ultimatum to withdraw from Goma, according to Opolot.
He said the regional leaders were grateful to South Africa after the Pretoria government pledged to provide logistical support to a neutral force to be deployed to the DRC.
Opolot says Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni urged other African countries to help with efforts to bolster and maintain security in the DRC.
Meanwhile, the leaders formerly admitted South Sudan as the newest member of the East African Community.