M23 rebels ‘not really concerned’ about Rwanda-DR Congo ceasefire agreements

The M23 rebel group said on Thursday that a ceasefire announced a day earlier “doesn’t really concern us”, while calling for “direct dialogue” with the DRC government.

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“M23 has seen the document on social media… There was nobody at the summit (from M23) so it doesn’t really worry us,” Lawrence Kanyuka, political spokesman for the M23 movement (March 23), told AFP.

“Normally when there is a ceasefire it is between the two warring sides,” he added.

Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi and Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta attended a mini-summit in the Angolan capital on Wednesday.

At a press conference in Kinshasa on Thursday, Congolese Foreign Minister Christophe Lutundula said: “Tomorrow, 18:00, M23 must stop all its attacks.”

M23 rebels had been dormant for years, but took up arms again late last year and have initially been seen by Kinshasa as actively supported by Rwanda, which denies the allegations.

The rebels recently seized large parts of the territory north of Goma, the provincial capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu province.

The mini-summit in Luanda concluded with an agreement on the cessation of hostilities in eastern DRC from Friday evening, followed by the withdrawal of M23 rebels from “occupied zones” and their “withdrawal to their original positions”.

If the rebels refuse, the East African Regional Force being deployed in Goma will “use force” to drive them out, the agreement said.

Kanyuka said the rebels declared a “unilateral ceasefire” in April and believed it was still in effect.

“If the government does not attack us tomorrow at 18:00 (16:00 GMT), or in the morning, we will still be there,” he said.

Otherwise, “we defend ourselves,” he said.

“We are always ready for a direct dialogue with the Congolese government to resolve the root causes of conflicts,” he added.

The government in Kinshasa has refused to engage with the M23 group, which it calls a “terrorist movement”, as long as it occupies territory in the DRC.

In response to a question, Lutundula ruled out direct negotiations with the M23 group.

(AFP)

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