M23 rebels ready to withdraw from occupied areas in eastern Congo

The M23 insurgency stems from the long fallout from the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The group was formed in 2012 claiming to defend the interests of Congolese Tutsis, the ethnic group that was targeted in the genocide and to which Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame belongs, against Hutu militias.
Image: Reuters/ File photo

Congo’s M23 rebel group is ready to withdraw from occupied territory in the east of the country and will support regional peacemaking efforts despite not being represented in talks, it said in a statement on Tuesday.

The Tutsi-led militia has staged several offences in east Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) this year, gaining ground in the vast mineral-rich country despite push back from Congolese forces.

Each side has accused the other of instigating attacks. Congo on Monday accused the M23 of massacring 272 civilians last week, which it denied.

The fighting has uprooted thousands of civilians and sparked diplomatic tensions with neighbouring Rwanda, which Congo and United Nations experts accuse of backing the M23. Rwanda denies this.

The M23 insurgency stems from the long fallout from the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The group was formed in 2012 claiming to defend the interests of Congolese Tutsis, the ethnic group that was targeted in the genocide and to which Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame belongs, against Hutu militias.

The rebels made their first major comeback in March this year since they were pushed back in 2013.

Congo and Rwanda have both taken part in talks mediated by other African leaders to try to resolve the resurgent conflict. Ceasefires have been agreed and a regional force was announced in April to fight militia groups, but the conflict has continued.

The M23 had previously said it could not co-operate with measures agreed at talks from which it was excluded.

But in a statement on Tuesday, M23 spokesperson Lawrence Kanyuka said the rebels were “ready to start disengagement and withdraw” from occupied territory, even though they were not part of a summit during which this recommendation was made.

The group requested a meeting with the regional force to discuss modalities and renewed its request for a meeting with the mediator and facilitator, Kenya’s ex-president Uhuru Kenyatta, who facilitated talks with other armed group and civil society leaders in Nairobi this week.

It also confirmed its commitment to a previously agreed ceasefire.

“The M23 reiterates its readiness to the direct dialogue with the DRC Government to find a lasting solution to the root causes of the conflict,” Kanyuka said.

Congolese authorities did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

On Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he had a “productive conversation” with Rwandan President Paul Kagame in which he urged Rwanda to stop supporting the M23 and call for its retreat.

Reuters

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About Joel Cholo Brooks 13504 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.
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