We are ready to meet Uhuru Kenyatta for a dialogue and ceasefire: M23
NAIROBI, Kenya - The M23 rebel group operating in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo is now demanding a meeting with East African Community mediator and Kenya’s former president Uhuru Kenyatta and Angolan President Joao Lourenco, before honoring the ceasefire call.
M23 rebel group Friday defied calls for a ceasefire, citing continual attacks from the DRC’s army, FARDC.
These demands from the M23 group came as the East African Community was on Friday preparing the ground for the resumption of dialogue in due in Nairobi.
The ceasefire call gave the M23 group up to 6 pm local time on Friday as a precondition for dialogue.
The last batch of the Kenya Defence Forces troop left for DRC where they were to wait for a call on whether to venture into the Bunagana, Rutshuru, and Kiwanja areas that have been under the control of the M23 group.
According to Lawrence Kanyuka -M23 Spokesperson, they were willing to join the dialogue as long as Congolese forces do not attack them.
“We are always ready for a direct dialogue with the Congolese government to resolve the root causes of conflicts.”
In a statement issued Friday, the rebels, who have in recent months taken large parts of DRC’s North Kivu Province.
A mini-summit of regional leaders recently held in Luanda, Angola attracted the presidents of Angola, Burundi, and DR Congo, as well as Rwanda’s Foreign minister Vincent Biruta (who represented President Paul Kagame) and Kenyatta, called for a ceasefire and withdrawal of M23 from areas they have recently captured.
M23 has, however, since ruled out withdrawing and instead called for direct talks with Kinshasa, which it has accused of reneging on previous peace agreements.
In their latest statement, the M23 also made reference to a unilateral ceasefire they declared back in April.
“The M23 accepts the ceasefire as recommended (by) the Heads of State; however, request the DRC Government to respect the said ceasefire, otherwise, the M23 reserves itself the full right to defend itself and to protect the civilian populations against any violations of the agreed ceasefire,” the statement reads in part.
It adds, “The M23 Movement is requesting a meeting with the mediator and the facilitator in order to discuss the matter of its concerns in a way to restore lasting peace in our country.”
The rebels also “tremendously” condemned what they describe as the “implementation of the ongoing planned genocide by the DRC Government and its allies.”
“Consequently, it shall not just stand by and witness the slaughtering of Congolese citizens. The M23 reiterates its undertaken commitment to a direct dialogue with the DRC Government, the only path to peacefully resolve the ongoing conflict.”
However, Kinshasa has ruled out negotiations with the M23, with the Foreign minister Christophe Lutundula insisting on Thursday, “it won't happen. I can reassure you on behalf of the government and the President of the Republic.”
A meeting of regional leaders on the sidelines of COP27 in Egypt earlier this month called for inclusivity in the inter-Congolese talks to help put an end to decades of violence in eastern parts of the vast country.
Meanwhile, reports emerged Friday evening that clashes had resumed between M23 rebels and Congolese forces and their allies.
But at the same time, the EAC was putting its East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) on standby to force the rebels to surrender.
“If M23 does not withdraw, the EAC Heads of States shall authorize the use of force to compel the group to comply,” reads the ultimatum in the communique released on Wednesday after a mini-summit of leaders in the Angolan capital Luanda.