M23 rebels warn of renewed fighting

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Esha Saxena Mandala
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The M23 rebels in eastern DR Congo are threatening to fight back any attempts by government agencies to occupy their positions.

The M23 political spokesperson, Lawrence Kanyuka, says a July 5 letter by the Governor of North Kivu province informed various government agencies, including intelligence services, about the resumption of their activities in territories occupied by the rebels.

“The M23 considers any presence of the [DR Congo] Government’s agents in our territory as an act of provocation, and such a move will be severely repressed per the clear instructions given to its security services,” Kanyuka said in a statement dated July 8.

He said the rebel group “remains committed to the peace process and direct negotiations” with the government, adding that dialogue is “the only way to resolve the ongoing conflict.”

The Congolese government downplayed the rebel group’s calls for talks, categorizing it as a terrorist movement.

“The M23 will defend itself against any warmongering initiative of the DRC Government and will continue to guarantee the protection of the population in the areas under its control,” Kanyuka said.

The rebels’ commander, Gen. Sultani Makenga, earlier said they have done their part regarding recommendations by regional leaders to end the conflict, but Kinshasa maintained a rigid position.

“We are peaceful, we want peace,” Makenga insisted.

“We will do what they want. If they want peace, we will make peace together; if they want war, we are going to make war.”

The M23 rebellion resurged in November 2021, after nearly 10 years following the rebels’ defeat in 2013. The rebel group said Kinshasa refused to implement agreements that would ensure its fighters’ reintegration and demobilization.

After the rebels took control of key territories in North Kivu, in November 2022, regional leaders reached an agreement in Luanda, the capital of Angola, to end the conflict.

Since December 2022, the M23 has withdrawn from several positions, and handed them over to the East African Community regional force, as per the Luanda Summit.

The rebels accuse the government of ignoring calls for peace talks and maintaining a belligerent position, belittling any efforts to resolve the conflict.

The Congolese government accuses Rwanda of supporting the rebels, allegations Kigali dismisses. Rwanda accuses the Congolese army of collaborating with the FDLR, a UN-sanctioned terrorist group responsible for cross-border attacks on Rwandan territory.

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