October 21, 2015 / 2:17 PM / 4 years ago

Pygmy and Bantu leaders sign peace deal in southeast Congo

KINSHASA (Reuters) - Leaders of two ethnic groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo have signed an agreement intended to end a conflict which has killed hundreds and displaced tens of thousands, a local activist said on Wednesday.

Violence since May 2013 in southeast Congo between militias representing the Luba, a Bantu ethnic group, and Twa, has included large-scale massacres.

David Ngoy Luhaka, a priest and member of the Diocesan Commission for Justice and Peace, said leaders from the two communities signed the accord on Saturday outside the town of Kalemie.

He said he was confident that the accord would help reduce conflict between the Twa and Luba, but cautioned that the politicization of the situation remained a concern.

The accord establishes mixed committees to review disputes and find peaceful solutions, he added.

“The members of the committees signed a code of engagement that they would remain neutral, that they would be impartial and that they would respect human rights,” Luhaka said.

Thirty-four people from the two groups are facing charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in a Congolese court over the violence.

Activists say that the conflict is driven by inequalities between Bantu villagers and the Twa, a hunting and gathering people historically excluded from access to land and basic services.

Reporting by Aaron Ross; Editing by Makini Brice and Andrew Roche

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