– Rebels from the March 23 Movement (M23) have still not withdrawn from occupied areas in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), despite an ultimatum from Kinshasa demanding their withdrawal, the on-site correspondent noted.
With fighting escalating between the rebels and the Congolese army, the DRC has the diplomatic channel to bring peace, particularly with the third phase of talks since Monday in Nairobi, which brings several active armed groups to the table. trading except the M23. .
M23 ULTIMATE DICE
Since May 2022, M23 rebels have occupied several villages in the northeastern province of North Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Last week, the M23 and the Congolese army clashed in Kibumba, located some 20 km from Goma, the capital of North Kivu and the largest city in the eastern DRC.
These clashes, during which the sounds of light and heavy weapons were heard on the outskirts of Goma, caused panic in the displacement sites, forcing thousands of asylum seekers to flee towards the city.
On November 23, a mini-summit in Luanda, the capital of Angola, in which Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi also participated, set a schedule that demanded an immediate ceasefire and, above all, an ultimatum for the M23 rebels to leave the areas. busy in order to allow a diplomatic solution to the current crisis.
NO SIGNAL OF WITHDRAWAL
However, the ultimatum has not yet borne fruit, the local correspondent for Kibumba noted.
“They are there right in front of us because they did not comply with the order to withdraw, and we are watching day and night. The ceasefire is very fragile until then, but we are maintaining our position in accordance with the request of our hierarchy to obey the recommendations of the authorities in the region,” said Ndjike Kaiko, spokesman for the army in the region.
At the entrance to Kibumba, several soldiers are deployed with the special mission of preventing the rebels from advancing on Goma. Just a week ago, fighting broke out again over this position as the rebels tried to advance on Goma.
“We are prepared for any eventuality on this line, which is considered the main lock that leads to the city of Goma. These rebels do not listen to the diplomatic voice, they just want to fight, and for that, as an army, we are there to protect our country from invaders,” said an officer stationed on the border of the rebel areas.
The Luanda summit added that if the M23 rebels refuse to withdraw, the East Africa regional force deployed in Goma “will use force to subdue them.”
Talks between the armed groups and the DRC authorities have resumed since Monday in Nairobi under the aegis of the East African Community (EAC) mediator, former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, to end the cycle of violence and restore peace and security. in this part of the DRC.
Several representatives of the region’s militias traveled to participate in these meetings, except for the M23 rebels who were not invited at the request of the DRC authorities, who had previously demanded their withdrawal from the areas under their occupation.
“There will be no dialogue with the M23 if it (M23) does not withdraw from Congolese soil,” the Congolese Minister of Communication and Media, spokesman for the Government, Patrick Muyaya, insisted on Monday in Kinshasa.
However, M23 military spokesman Willy Ngoma said that “no withdrawal program is on the agenda in the occupied areas,” noting that “only direct and sincere dialogue will resolve the current crisis in the region.”
At least 200,000 people have fled their homes due to clashes between the army and M23 rebels, according to the United Nations. ■