Congo and M23 rebels sign peace agreements

Congo and the so-called M23 rebels signed a peace agreement Thursday that will see the insurgent group demobilize its fighters and transform itself into a political party.

Kenya's presidency said Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who is the chairman of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region, and Malawian President Joyce Banda oversaw the signing ceremony in Nairobi.

The agreements also foresee that members of the M23 insurgency will be granted an amnesty for acts of war. The agreements also allow for the return of refugees.

M23 launched its rebellion in in eastern Congo in April 2012, becoming the latest reincarnation of a Tutsi rebel group dissatisfied with the Congolese government.

The U.S. welcomed the agreement, State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said, adding the declarations "represent a strong step forward for peace in eastern DRC."

United Nations spokesman Martin Nesirky said in a news release that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the agreement and that it marked a positive step toward ending "cycles of deadly conflicts that have caused immense suffering to the Congolese people."