M23 rebels agree to pull out of Bunagana

M23 rebels. They captured several towns in eastern DRC, cutting off trade routes. PHOTO/AFP

What you need to know:

  • The rebels are ready for talks with the DRC government to find a lasting solution to the conflict in the eastern part of the country.

The M23 rebels have agreed to withdraw from the territory they captured, including Bunagana border and Kitigoma townships on DR Congo side, a day after the United States and Kenya Defence Forces warned the group and its supporters.

The M23 spokesperson, Mr Lawrence Kanyuka, in a statement on Tuesday said they were ready to disengage and withdraw, but requested a meeting with the East African Community regional force and ad-hoc verification mechanism to agree on the process.

“In regards to the implementation of the said recommendations, the M23 is ready to start disengagement and withdraw, even though it was not represented in the said summit. The M23 lends its support to the regional efforts to bring long-lasting peace in the DRC,” Mr Kanyuka said.

Mr Kanyuka yesterday said they were ready for talks with the DRC government to find a lasting solution to the conflict in the eastern part of the country.

The DRC accuses Rwanda of supporting M23 rebels. Rwanda too accuses Congo of supporting FDRL (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda), a Rwandan rebel group.

M23 rebels captured Bunagana border town this year. They later captured the Kitigoma border and Rutshuru township, cutting off the trade route for Ugandan and Kenyan goods to Goma City. If M23 rebels withdraw, it is hoped that normal trade will resume.

The M23 rebels’ statement came a day after the US Secretary of State, Mr Antony Blinken, had a telephone conversation with Rwanda President Paul Kagame.

Mr Blinken told President Kagame that support to non-state armed groups in the DRC must end, “including Rwanda’s assistance to M23, an armed group that has been designated by the United States and the United Nations.”

Mr Blinken called for concrete progress on the implementation of the commitments made during the November 23 Luanda Mini-Summit on peace and security communiqué.

In the summit, it was resolved that M23 rebels withdraw from captured territories and also cease fire, but the rebels said the resolutions were not binding to them since they were not a party to them.

The EAC regional forces led by Kenya have deployed in Goma City to prevent the advance of the rebels and also disarm armed groups in eastern DRC.

Burundi has deployed troops and Uganda is expected to follow in the coming days.

Last call 

East African Community leaders agreed that if the rebels don’t withdraw and disarm, the regional force would be used to compel them to do so. The Congolese government declared M23 a terrorist group and also declined to have dialogue with the rebel group.

On Monday, Congolese authorities accused M23 rebels of killing more than 270 people in Kishishe Village in eastern North Kivu Province, a territory under the control of M23 rebels last week. The rebels denied the allegations, saying the majority of the dead were enemy combatants killed during the fight with Congolese forces.They said only eight civilians were killed by stray bullets.