M23 accept conditional ceasefire, want talks with DRC government

The armed group was warned that if they did not cease fire after the deadline, force would be used to push them out.

Thousands of people have also been displaced as DRC’s army has struggled to stop the M23’s advance [File: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters]

There has been a pause in fighting in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, after confrontations on Friday between Congolese troops and M23 rebels, as the armed group conditionally agreed to a ceasefire.

However, M23, which is waging its most serious offensive in eastern DRC since 2012, has rejected calls by East African leaders to disarm and withdraw from land they have taken. They also want to talk directly with the government in Kinshasa.

Leaders of the DRC, Rwanda, Burundi, and Angola met in Luanda on Wednesday to find a solution to the continuing conflict. They agreed to a ceasefire, which went into effect at 16:00 GMT on Friday. But no representative from M23 was present at the talks.

In a statement by M23 leader Bertrand Bisimwa, issued on Friday, he expressed gratitude to regional leaders for helping to secure a peaceful solution to the conflict.

“The M23 respect the ceasefire as recommended by the heads of state,” he said, but added that they “request the DRC government to respect the said ceasefire, otherwise, the M23 reserves itself the full right to defend itself.”

Wednesday’s deal warned that if the rebels refused to stop fighting, the East African regional force deployed in Goma “will use force” to push them out.

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