Presidents Yoweri Museveni (Uganda), Paul Kagame (Rwanda), João Lourenço (Angola) and Félix Tshisekedi (DR Congo) met virtually on October 7 to discuss peace and security in the Great Lakes Region of Africa. Their meeting continued talks aimed at finding solutions to the ongoing embattled relationship between Rwanda and Uganda, as well as how to create stability in the heavily rebel-occupied Democratic Republic of Congo. Also invited to the meeting was Burundi, which passed on the invite, citing a preference for bilateral talks.

New Vision reports that Félix Tshisekedi of DR Congo hosted the summit. He attended from Goma, the capital of DR Congo’s North Kivu Province, which is an area thick with hundreds of rebel groups that have displaced millions of people – some of whom have found refuge in Maine. According to the final communique of the meeting, the heads of state rejuvenated their efforts to eradicate armed groups operating in the region.

Because Uganda, DR Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi share borders, armed groups defecting from one country often reappear in another, a scenario that compels the states to deal with each other. The presidents have also agreed to work against the regional and international networks behind the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the region, something that indirectly contributes to the violence.

The heads of state asserted that they feel compelled to cooperate to end recurrent violence and to project stability in the region, in order to spur trade and investment. The meeting was initially planned as an in-person gathering, but COVID-19 pushed it to a virtual format. President Évariste Ndayishimiye of Burundi declined to attend the meeting but did meet with the Congo’s Foreign Minister, who traveled to Burundi prior to the summit.

Burundi, DR Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda form the area referred to as the Great Lakes Region of Africa. Amjambo Africa has previously reported on the closure of borders between Rwanda and Uganda that put on hold cross-border trade. Relations between Burundi and Rwanda disintegrated following a 2015 failed coup attempt in Burundi, with no sign of normalization on the horizon. The DR Congo’s eastern border, which is shared with Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda has consistently been ground zero for armed groups. President Tshisekedi wants his counterparts’ support to eradicate these groups, which have killed so many lives in the region. Angola’s João Lourenço has been playing a mediator role in the Rwanda-Uganda normalization talks.