Nairobi — The Congolese government and the M23 rebel group on Thursday signed a peace agreement in the Kenyan capital Nairobi. Congolese M23 rebels fighters travel on trucks in Rushuru, Democratic Republic of Congo August 3, 2013 as deadline set by UN peacekeepers for rebels in the volatile eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to lay down their weapons passed on Thursday, with the fighters facing force if they fail to disarm. Credit: Reuters/James Akena
"Today [Thursday] the Congolese government and the M23 respectively have signed declarations reflecting the consensus reached during the Kampala Dialogue on steps necessary to end the armed activities of the M23," said a joint communiqué by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and the South African Development Cooperation (SADC).
The statement was signed by the Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni who is also the current chair of ICGLR and Malawian president Joyce Banda and chair of SADC.
In October the M23 rebels announced it had abandoned its nearly two-year-old rebellion against the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) after a resounding defeat by the Congolese army with assistance from a United Nations intervention force.
Subsequent talks in the Ugandan capital Kampala failed after the DRC government disagreed on amnesty for the rebels and their integration into the Congolese national army.
After the collapse of the talks, regional leaders asked the DRC government to give a hearing to M23's grievances.
The Congolese government and the M23 have now agreed on the key sticking points; amnesty for the former rebels for acts of aggression and war; release of the M23 rebels detained by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC); demobilisation of former M23 combatants, among others.
The signing of the agreement could bring peace in volatile eastern region of DRC, where thousands of people have been displaced from their homes, and to neighbouring countries like Uganda and Rwanda.