The M23 rebel group in eastern DR Congo has accused the government forces of violating a ceasefire called for by regional leaders and is instead killing civilians.
In a statement on April 10, the M23 spokesperson, Lawrence Kanyuka said the government coalition was taking advantage of the slow deployment of the East African Community regional force (EACRF) in areas vacated by the rebels and committed various abuses.
Kanyuka said the M23 had withdrawn from “most of the areas under its control,” including Karuba, Mushaki, Kilorirwe, Kitchanga, Mweso, Kishishe, Bambo, Bunagana, Tchengerero, Kiwanja and Kinyandonyi.
On Monday, the M23 withdrew from Kiwanja, in North Kivu province, allowing the Ugandan contingent of the regional force to take over.
The rebels began pulling out from occupied territories in December 2022, in compliance with the Luanda agreement signed in the Angolan capital a month earlier. Since its deployment, the regional force, made up of troops from Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, South Sudan, occupies the rebels’ vacated positions.
“We are witnessing troop deployment delays by the [regional force] in other areas vacated by the M23, including Kishishe, Bambu, Kibirizi, shasha, Kisharu, Busanza, Ngwenda, Mabenga, Tongo and Nyamilima, which leaves local communities at the mercy” of the government coalition which includes militias like the FDLR and Mai-Mai and mercenaries.
While these re-occupations are taking place, Kanyuka said, targeted killings and harassment of innocent civilians by the coalition forces are swiftly spreading in Mushaki, Kiroliwe, Mweso, Bambu, Busumba and Rugogwe.
According to the New Times, Kanyuka said the rebels are committed to peace in eastern DR Congo. He called on the regional leaders and the facilitator of the EAC-led peace process to engage the Congolese government “to do its part as a matter of priority.”
“The DRC Government must stop re-occupying areas vacated by M23, killing, harassing innocent civilians, and looting and destroying their property. It must disarm its militia forces, including FDLR and mercenaries, and immediately repatriate them to their countries of origin,” he said.
The M23 reminds the Congolese government, the EAC and the international community, Kanyuka said, that its “withdrawal is not the end but a step needed to create suitable conditions for political dialogue” with Kinshasa in order to “address the root causes of the conflict.”
Eastern DR Congo has been volatile for nearly three decades and is home to more than 120 local and foreign armed groups.
Kenya’s former president Uhuru Kenyatta, who is the facilitator of the EAC-led peace process, said last week that the regional efforts were making progress, although North Kivu was still volatile.