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Congo summit: African leaders gather to urge a halt to violence

A summit of leaders from Africa's Great Lakes region has urged M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo to stop the conflict.

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UN armored personnel in Congo on Nov. 18, 2012. (Phil Moore/AFP/Getty Images)

African leaders from the Great Lakes region held a summit Saturday, urging rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo to stop their escalating war. 

Rwandan President Paul Kagame, without whom leaders had said the meeting would be "meaningless," was not in attendance, Al Jazeera reported.

Rwanda and Uganda are widely believed to back the M23 rebels, who have captured the town of Goma and other cities after a three-month ceasefire, Reuters reported. The rebels deny these links, as do both governments, who have fought for control in the region for years. 

The DR Congo's President Joseph Kabila arrived at Munyonyo resort on the outskirts of Kampala, where the summit is taking place, early Saturday morning, as did Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki and Tanzania's Jakaya Kikwete. The host, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, was also at the resort, according to Al Jazeera.

The four leaders issued a statement Saturday calling on the rebels to "stop all war activities and withdraw from Goma" and "stop talk of overthrowing an elected government," BBC News reported

More from GlobalPost: DR Congo: M23 rebels begin 'liberation' march on Kinshasa

“We are looking at a possibility of putting our observers in Goma,” James Mugume, permanent secretary in Uganda’s Foreign Ministry, said in an interview before the summit, Bloomberg Businessweek reported. “For observers, we can put them in immediately, while a neutral force may come later.”

The UN has estimated that 140,000 people in and around Goma have been displaced by the rebels so far, who say they plan to capture the country's capital, Kinshasa, Al Jazeera reported. 

The World Food Programme has started distributing aid to the 81,000 people displaced by the violence this week along, and have warned of an impending shortage of food and medical supplies, according to Bloomberg.

Peacekeeping spokesman Kieran Dwyer said the UN is also investigating rumors that the rebels are recruiting child soldiers. 

A delegation of M23 rebels was also in Kampala Saturday, though not attending the summit, Al Jazeera reported. They are expected to meet with Museveni for talks later on. 

More from GlobalPost: Rebels take Goma, vow 'liberation' of DR Congo (PHOTOS)

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/121124/congo-summit-african-leaders-urge-halt-violence-m23