Angola to deploy troops in Congo’s rebel-hit east

LUANDA (Reuters) – Angola will send 500 soldiers to neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo to secure areas held by the M23 rebel group after the southern African country’s parliament approved the deployment on Friday.

Insecurity has spiralled in Congo’s volatile east over the past year, partly due to the resurgence of the M23, a rebel group claiming to represent the interests of ethnic Tutsis, which has seized large parts of Congo’s North Kivu province.

The conflict has sparked a diplomatic crisis between Congo and neighbouring Rwanda, which Kinshasa accuses of backing the rebels, including by sending its own troops into eastern Congo. Rwanda denies any involvement.

Last year, Angolan President Joao Lourenco mediated talks between Congo’s President Felix Tshisekedi and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame who agreed to de-escalate tensions, but a declared ceasefire did not hold.

Angolan lawmakers present at Friday’s vote gave their unanimous approval of a one-year deployment of troops in Congo’s eastern provinces.

The minister of state Francisco Furtado said earlier this week that the deployment could cost Angola 11.2 billion kwanzas ($22.30 million), but that it expected to receive contributions from international organisations, including the African Union and the United Nations.

Congo’s minister of foreign affairs, Christophe Lutundula, said on Monday that Angola was planning to send troops not to attack but to help maintain peace.

Kenya, Uganda and Burundi have also deployed troops to eastern Congo in the last year as part of an East African regional force aiming to help end militia violence.

($1 = 502.2000 kwanzas)

(Reporting by Miguel Gomes in Luanda and Sonia Rolley in Paris; Writing by Anait Miridzhanian; Editing by Nellie Peyton and Raissa Kasolowsky)

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