What you need to know:
- Maj Willy Ngoma, the spokesman of the M23 rebels, told Saturday Monitor on Thursday that they were not party to the pact signed by presidents Paul Kagame (Rwanda) and Félix Tshisekedi (DR Congo) in the Angolan capital, Luanda. Maj Ngoma added that the pact, therefore, is not binding to them.
The M23 rebels have resumed fighting against the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) troops. The militia has also vowed not to withdraw from its position.
Maj Willy Ngoma, the spokesman of the M23 rebels, told Saturday Monitor on Thursday that they were not party to the pact signed by presidents Paul Kagame (Rwanda) and Félix Tshisekedi (DR Congo) in the Angolan capital, Luanda. Maj Ngoma added that the pact, therefore, is not binding to them.
“Those saying that we immediately withdraw from Bunagana, where do they want us to go? We are going nowhere because we are Congolese nationals. We can’t go to Uganda or America because we are not citizens of those countries. We shall not withdraw our forces because we are citizens of this country,” Maj Ngoma said.
On Wednesday, in the presence of Angolan President João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço, President Kagame and President Tshisekedi agreed to an immediate cessation of hostilities between the two neighbouring countries and withdrawal of M23 rebels from Bunagana border town.
Despite the agreement, M23 rebels and the DR Congo forces were engaged in an intense fight on Thursday.
Maj Ngoma said the DR Congo government should talk directly to them rather than negotiating with countries that are not fighting in the restive eastern part of the DR Congo.
The DR Congo blacklisted the M23 rebel group as a terrorist organisation and vowed not to negotiate with them.
The Wednesday agreement in Angola was the second time that regional organisations have unsuccessfully ordered the M23 rebels to withdraw from their captured position.
Last month, during the third conclave attended by Uganda President Museveni, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Burundi’s President Évariste Ndayishimiye, South Sudan President Salva Kiir and the Tanzanian High Commissioner John Steven Simbachawene in Nairobi, Kenya, leaders agreed that M23 rebels withdraw from their positions. The group, however, declined.
The East African Community leaders also agreed to send a defence force led by Kenya to disarm all non-government forces, including M23 rebels and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). However, the DR Congo rejected any move to allow Rwanda to be part of the defence force to be deployed in the DR Congo.
President Tshisekendi accuses Rwanda of supporting M23 rebels and also providing troops allegedly embedded in the rebel group. The Rwandan president also accuses the DR Congo of supporting a Rwandan rebel group. Both countries deny the allegations.
Both presidents went into Thursday’s meeting threatening to escalate tensions if their issues were not resolved.
The DR Congo closed its borders with Rwanda after M23 rebels captured Bunagana town on the Congolese side. The Congolese government also suspended trade and mineral deals with Rwanda, which has serious consequences to Kigali’s economy since they export most of their goods there. Kigali also imports minerals from the DR Congo.
Twitter, which is the major media channel for the M23 rebels, on Thursday targeted handles of the group’s officials as well as supporters—including those in Rwanda.
The @M23RDCONGO—the official twitter handle of the rebel group—and a dozen others that have been publishing supposedly fake stories about attacks on Congolese of Rwandan origin were suspended yesterday.
The standoff on the ground has impacted Uganda. The closure of the border has particularly affected Uganda’s trade route and road construction projects in the DR Congo.