DRC troops, rebels clash as M23 says ready to ‘disengage’

Military of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the M23 rebels have clashed again, local sources said, as the rebels promised they were ready to disengage.

DRC troops engaged the rebel group outside Bwiza on Tuesday, some 40 kilometres north of the provincial capital Goma, according to the AFP news agency, as the violence sent local people fleeing and brought the neighbouring town of Kitchanga to a standstill.

The latest unrest in the conflict-wracked country comes a week after an attack blamed on M23 slightly further to the north in eastern North Kivu province left around 300 people dead, almost all civilians.

The group denied being behind the massacre, blaming “stray bullets” for the deaths of just eight civilians.

On Tuesday, the group issued a statement saying it was ready to countenance a withdrawal from territory it had seized — a key demand made by Luanda at peace talks last month with neighbouring Rwanda, which saw a truce agreement unlocked.

“The M23 reiterates its readiness to the direct dialogue with the DRC government in order to find a lasting solution to the root causes of the conflict in the eastern DRC,” the group spokesperson Lawrence Kanyuka said.

He said the M23 group “was ready to start disengagement and withdraw”.

Fragile ceasefire

The ceasefire was scheduled to take effect on November 25, followed by a pullout from the seized territory by the M23 two days later.

This did not happen, but Kanyuka stated that the M23 group would “maintain” the ceasefire “even though it was not represented” at the peace summit.

He added the group wanted a meeting with the East African Regional Force to discuss ceasefire implementation.

Kinshasa accuses Rwanda of supporting M23 — something that UN experts and US officials have also pointed to in recent months.

But Kigali in turn, accuses the DRC of collusion with the FDLR — a former Rwandan Hutu rebel group established in the DRC after the genocide of the Tutsi community in 1994 in Rwanda.



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