Museveni among EAC leaders in Burundi for summit on DR Congo unrest
What you need to know:
- Militias have plagued eastern Democratic Republic of Congo for decades, many of which are a legacy of regional wars that flared during the 1990s and the early 2000s.
East African leaders were in Burundi on Saturday for a regional summit to discuss the raging conflict in eastern DR Congo.
The talks are being hosted in Burundi's economic hub Bujumbura by the East Africa Community, which is leading mediation efforts to end the resurgent fighting in the restive east of the giant central African nation.
"Agenda: Evaluation of the Security Situation in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo & Way Forward," the EAC said on Twitter on Friday as it announced the extraordinary summit.
President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, which is accused of backing rebel groups in the eastern DRC, is among those attending -- his first visit to Burundi since 2013 when he attended independence celebrations..
The two neighbours in the Great Lakes region of central Africa have long had tempestuous relations, each accusing the other of interfering in their internal affairs.
In 2020, Kagame urged the then newly-elected Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye to reset diplomatic ties but his overture was rejected as "hypocritical".
Burundi in particular has accused Rwanda of harbouring those behind a failed 2015 coup that plunged the country into violent chaos.
The Burundian presidency tweeted pictures of Kagame's arrival in the lakeside city, and other heads of state including Kenya's President William Ruto, Uganda's veteran leader Yoweri Museveni and Samia Suluhu Hassan of Tanzania.
A Congolese presidency official said Friday that President Felix Tshisekedi would be going to the summit, although by around 1000 GMT he did not appear to have arrived.
The meeting is being held shortly after a visit by Pope Francis to Kinshasa, where he met victims of the conflict and condemned the "inhumane violence" and "brutal atrocities" taking place.
Militias have plagued the mineral-rich region for decades, many of them a legacy of regional wars that flared during the 1990s and the early 2000s.
Since November 2021, a rebel group known as M23 has seized chunks of territory in the east and come within miles (kilometres) of its main commercial hub Goma.
The DRC accuses its smaller central African neighbour Rwanda of backing the M23, something UN experts, the United States and other Western countries agree with. Kigali denies the charge.
Last week, Qatar had planned to host a meeting between Tshisekedi and Kagame, but diplomats said the Congolese leader refused to attend.
Tensions between the two countries were exacerbated last week when Rwandan forces opened fire at a Congolese fighter jet they said had violated Rwandan airspace.
Kinshasa described it as an attack that amounted to "an act of war".
The EAC decided to create a military force to pacify eastern Congo last year, with the first troops arriving in Goma in November.
The soldiers are permitted to use force to dislodge M23 fighters but they have not yet done so.
The EAC groups Burundi, the DRC, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.
Kenya's former president Uhuru Kenyatta, who is mediating on behalf of the EAC, last month voiced concern over the "sharply deteriorating" situation in the east.