x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Main rebel movement in the DRC downs arms to seek a political solution

Main rebel movement in the Democratic Republic of Congo downs arms to seek a political solution.

GOMA // A leader of the M23 rebel group in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) said yesterday that his movement was ending its rebellion after more than 18 months of fighting government forces.

The group will seek to resolve its grievances through “political means only”, said the M23 president, Bertrand Bisimwa.

Mr Bisimwa ordered M23 rebel commanders to “prepare troops for the process of disarmament, demobilisation and social reintegration on terms to be agreed upon with the Congolese government”.

A DRC government spokesman, Lambert Mende, declared victory over the rebels and said about 100 had been captured by government forces. M23 leader Sultani Makenga and other high-ranking officials of the movement are on the run, he said.

The dramatic developments yesterday came after the DRC military backed by United Nations forces stepped up their offensive against the rebels last month as peace talks once again stalled.

The military rapidly seized control of more than a half dozen towns in just a matter of days and Mr Mende said yesterday they had finally recaptured the last two remaining rebel areas of Chanzu and Runyonyi.

Residents of Goma, a city of one million that the M23 briefly overtook a year ago, expressed cautious optimism that the end of M23 could stabilise the area, which has been racked by myriad rebel groups and militias.

“That they put down their arms and stopped fighting is a good thing. We are liberated but I’m not sure it’s the end of the M23,” said Diane Wamahoro, a 20-year-old waitress.

Analysts have cautioned that M23 is only the latest reincarnation of discontent among ethnic Tutsis in eastern DRC.

M23 is believed to have received military and financial support from the government of neighbouring Rwanda, whose president is an ethnic Tutsi.

Rwanda denies having aided the rebels despite evidence laid out in a report by a UN group of experts.

* Associated Press