Eastern DRC Crisis: Key Leaders Convene in Addis Ababa for Peace Mini-Summit

On Friday, February 16, 2024, a mini-summit addressing the ongoing crisis in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was initiated at the Julius Nyerere Hall within the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa. This significant gathering was orchestrated by João Lourenço, the President of Angola, who has been appointed as the mediator by both the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union to facilitate de-escalation efforts in the region.

The mini-summit saw an assembly of leaders, including Presidents Félix Tshisekedi of the DRC and Paul Kagame of Rwanda, engaging in critical discussions under the convening authority of President Lourenço. Despite the expectation of ten heads of state, the summit was attended by six, including the host João Lourenço, Félix Antoine Tshisekedi of the DRC who arrived directly from the airport, William Ruto of Kenya, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, and Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa. The absentees were represented by high-level officials, ensuring broad regional representation.

In his opening remarks, President Lourenço highlighted the urgent need to resume dialogue between the DRC and Rwanda amidst escalating conflicts that have severely impacted the Congolese population, both humanitarily and economically. The primary goal articulated for the summit was to foster a ceasefire between the DRC and the M23 rebel group and to explore the possibility of direct talks between the leaders of Rwanda and the DRC. This initiative aims to avert further deterioration of the situation and potential regional flare-ups within the East African Community (EAC) and SADC regions.

The proceedings of the mini-summit continued behind closed doors, with expectations set for each party to present their position, starting with President Félix Tshisekedi. Notably, at the beginning of the meeting, the attending heads of state, positioned at opposite ends of the hall, did not exchange greetings, and no group photo was planned, underscoring the tensions and the serious atmosphere of the summit. A final communiqué is anticipated to conclude the discussions.

In addition to the summit talks, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa and President João Lourenço held a bilateral meeting to further discuss the peace and security situation in the Eastern DRC, demonstrating the regional leaders’ commitment to finding a sustainable resolution to the crisis.