By HOMELAND MEDIA TEAM/AGENCIES
The M23 rebels have agreed to cease fire and vacate occupied territories in Eastern DRC, paving the way for a political solution to their grievances.
“The M23 confirms its maintenance of the ceasefire,” said the rebel movement on Tuesday night.
“In regards to the implementation of the said recommendations, the M23 is ready to start disengagement and withdraw even though it was not represented at the summit,” the rebels added.
Regional leaders on November 23 in Luanda, Angola resolved that M23 lay down weapons and vacate Bunagana and other occupied territories or face military action.
The rebels, who seized large swathes of land including the major trade town of Bunagana, said in a statement seen by Nation Times that it “lends its support to the regional efforts to bring long-lasting peace in the DRC.”
The M23 rebellion led to bad blood between President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and DRC’s Felix Tshisekedi, raising the prospect of all-out war.
Tshisekedi accuses Rwanda of arming M23 with modern and long-range weaponry and replenishing the rebel movement’s ranks with soldiers to destabilise the mineral-rich North Kivu.
On the other hand, Kagame accuses Tshisekedi’s government of embedding FDLR fighters, who are blamed for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, in the attack units of the mainstream Congolese armed forces.
This past Sunday, United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Kagame to stop support for M23 rebels and also condemned hate speech against Rwandophones in the mineral-rich country.
Kagame has previously denied supporting M23 rebels, saying the fresh rebellion is a result of unfulfilled past agreements with Kinshasa.
However, in a phone call with Kagame on Sunday, Blinken “made clear that any external 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.”
Secretary Blinken, according to a statement issued by State Department spokesperson, Ned Price, “also shared deep concern about the impact of the fighting on Congolese civilians who have been killed, injured and displaced from their homes.”
The M23 were last week accused of killing over 50 civilians in Kishishe in North Kivu during a fight with FDLR and Mai Mai militia group, claims the rebel movement denied.
Secretary Blinken also condemned the “resurgence of hate speech and public incitement against Rwandaphone communities, recalling the real and horrible consequences of such rhetoric in the past.”
The UN recently warned that the current violence in eastern DRC was a “warning sign of societal fragility and proof of the enduring presence of the conditions that allowed large-scale hatred and violence to erupt into a genocide in the past.”
The M23 have since requested a meeting with the East African Regional Standby Force to “discuss the implementation modalities” of the withdrawal of forces from occupied territories.
The Movement also requested a meeting with Uhuru Kenyatta, who is facilitating the political process on behalf of EAC, “to discuss the matter of its concerns.”
The rebels, who seized Goma city in 2012, reiterated their “readiness to the direct dialogue with the DRC government in order to find a lasting solution to the root causes of the conflict in eastern DRC.”