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DRC’s Tshisekedi accuses M23 rebels of faking agreed pullback

The M23 rebel group has not fully withdrawn from areas it seized in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC], President Felix Tshisekedi said, accusing the militia of faking an agreed pullback of its forces.

“Despite the international pressure, the group is still there,” Tshisekedi said during a panel session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday.

“They pretend to move, they act like they are moving, but they’re not. They’re simply moving around, redeploying elsewhere, and they stay in the towns that they have captured,” he said.

Regional leaders brokered an agreement in November under which the Tutsi-led group was meant to withdraw from recently seized positions by January 15 as part of efforts to end the conflict.

Tshisekedi’s comments were the most outspoken from the DRC authorities so far on how they view the implementation of the peace deal.

“President Tshisekedi has only this to say. It is the government that does not respect the ceasefire, it also continues to arm armed groups,” said Lawrence Kanyaka, a spokesperson for the M23.

Tshisekedi accuses Rwanda of fuelling conflict

Earlier in January, an internal United Nations intelligence report said it was not possible to confirm the M23’s purported withdrawal from some areas due to continued signs of troop movement, and its analysis indicated the group had seized new territory elsewhere.

Tshisekedi again accused Rwanda of fuelling the conflict by supporting the rebels — an accusation also levelled by Western powers and UN experts. Rwanda firmly denies this.

Several civil society organisations have called for a demonstration on Wednesday in the provincial capital Goma to protest delays in implementing the M23 withdrawal, although the city authorities have not authorised the march.

The conflict displaced at least 450,000 people and sparked a diplomatic crisis between DRC and neighbouring Rwanda.

DRC — along with the United States and several European countries — has repeatedly accused its smaller central African neighbour Rwanda of backing the M23, although Kigali denies the charge.

M23, whose name stands for “the March 23 Movement,” took up its weapons against the government in late 2021, accusing Kinshasa of failing to respect promises to reintegrate the rebels into the army.

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