Kampala — LEADERS in the Great Lakes Region have directed March 23 Movement (M23) rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo to withdraw from the city of Goma and stop all war activities.
The leaders issued the directive in a communiqué released at the weekend after the fifth extraordinary summit of the Heads of State and government of the International Conference on the Great lakes Region (ICGLR) in Uganda.
M23 rebels launched a rebellion against DRC President Joseph Kabila's government eight months ago and have since seized the mineral-rich city of Goma in the eastern part of the country.
President Kabila was also directed to resolve grievances of M23 at the ICGRL summit, which closed on Saturday in Kampala.
"We hereby decide as follows...M23 to stop all war activities and withdraw from Goma. M23 to withdraw from current positions of tactical importance not less than 0 kilometres from Goma town within two days," read part of the communiqué.
Among presidents present at the summit were Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, Mwai Kibaki of Kenya, President Kabila and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, who is chairperson of the ICGLR.
African Union Commission Chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma was also present at the summit, which was convened to find the way forward after M23 rebels seized the city of Goma on Tuesday last week.
Zambia was represented by Defence Minister Geoffrey Mwamba, who President Michael Sata delegated to the summit.
In their declaration at the end of the one-day summit held at Speke Resort Munyonyo, leaders resolved that a composite force comprising one neutral force, DRC military and national police should be deployed to Goma Airport.
The summit also resolved that the police that were disarmed in Goma by the M23 should be rearmed so that they could resume duty.
Furthermore, the summit expressed gratitude to South Africa which offered to provide logistical support to the Neutral International Force that would help keep peace in Eastern DRC.
Leaders have since pledged to support President Museveni to secure resources from South Africa, Nigeria, Algeria, Angola, DRC, the African Union, the United Nations and other partners for operations of the Neutral International Force.
Tanzania has offered to provide a Force Commander for the Neutral International Force.
Meanwhile, the Heads of State summit has approved South Sudan's application to be admitted to the ICGLR, which will raise the number of member States to 12.
Currently, ICGLR comprises Angola, Burundi, Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, DRC, Tanzania, Malawi, Uganda, Sudan, Kenya and Zambia.
Mr Mwamba expressed hope that the outcome of the summit would restore peace and foster development.