(Bloomberg) -- A summit of African leaders ordered the M23 rebel group in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to cease hostilities or face attack by a regional military force.
African leaders including Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi, Angolan President Joao Lourenco and Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta met in the Angolan capital, Luanda, on Wednesday to discuss continuing violence in the mineral-rich region that has displaced tens of thousands of people. They demanded the rebels, which Congo and United Nations experts say are backed by Rwanda, lay down their weapons by 6 p.m. on Friday.
“If M23 refuses to disengage and free all territories they currently occupy, East African Community heads of state will instruct the regional force to use force to induce them to submit,” the leaders said in a communique posted on the Congolese presidency’s Twitter feed. The EAC announced in June it was sending troops to eastern Congo, the six-nation economic block’s first military deployment.
Read: Congo Crisis Tests East African Bloc’s First Military Deployment
Eastern Congo has suffered decades of conflict since the 1990s, when violence from the aftermath of Rwanda’s civil war and genocide spread across the border. Recent tension between the two neighbors have raised the risks of renewed fighting in the region, which is rich in gold, tantalum and other resources.
The US State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs welcomed Angola’s efforts to end the conflict.
--With assistance from David Herbling.
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