M23 rebels declare immediate cease-fire with government in Congo

The Congolese rebel group on Tuesday declared a cease-fire to pave the way for dialogue with the Democratic Republic of the Congo government.

“The M23 Movement hereby declares a cease-fire effective from this Tuesday, March 7, 2023, at 12.00 noon to pave way for the political process,” the rebels' spokesperson Lawrence Kanyuka said in a statement.

The cease-fire announcement came after several days of fighting between government forces and the rebels in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The group said the cease-fire is in line with consultations between the M23 leadership and Angolan President Joao Lourenco held in the capital Luanda, as well as decisions made at various regional meetings.

“The M23 takes this opportunity to thank all the regional leaders who have made efforts to listen, and understand its problems, and for their tireless efforts to restore peace and security in eastern DRC,” the statement said.

It called on regional leaders and international partners to “spare no effort” in contributing to current initiatives aimed at restoring peace and stability in the volatile region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Since its reemergence in late 2021, the rebel group has occupied key towns in the country’s eastern North Kivu province.

At a mini-summit in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, regional leaders gave the Congolese rebel group a March 30 deadline to withdraw from all occupied areas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's eastern region.

Earlier on Monday, sensing the cease-fire announcement, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the rebels to abide by the new initiative.

“The Secretary-General condemns all violence against civilians and renews his call on all Congolese and foreign armed groups to lay down their weapons and disarm unconditionally,” said Stephane Dujarric, Guterres' chief spokesman.

Since last year, fighting between the M23 and government forces has displaced over 600,000 people.

Hundreds of enraged Congolese displaced by fighting in eastern Congo on Monday took to the streets of the provincial capital Goma, demanding help from the provincial government.

Guterres urged all parties to the conflict to provide immediate and unrestricted humanitarian access to the affected people, as well as to protect civilians and uphold international humanitarian law.

The fighting has heightened tensions between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo's government.

Kinshasa accuses Kigali of backing the rebel group, a charge Rwanda denies.

A cease-fire demanded by African leaders in the Angolan capital of Luanda last November was broken within days.

Source: Anadolu Agency