Karuba, Democratic Republic of Congo - Scores of M23 rebels assembled in the hillside town of Kubaro on Wednesday, in what was described as the first phase of a major withdrawal from territory seized over the past two months in the eastern DR Congo.
Fighters, strapped with semi-automatics, RPGs and the occasional anti-aircraft machine gun, congregated at the centre of the town, as they awaited further instructions from M23’s military command.
Addressing curious townsfolk who had gathered, General Vianey Kazarama, M23 military spokesperson, said the withdrawal came about after President Kabila agreed to engage directly with the group.
“From tonight, our soldiers will not be controlling this area. "The soldiers who are in Karuba must go to Sake, and those in Ngungi, Humule, Muremure and Mushake must also go Sake," he said.
According to the M23, its fighters would also be out of Goma by Friday. But questions remain over the details of the Goma withdrawal, and there is still doubt over the willingness of the rebels to relinquish its hold over the important provincial capital.
Al Jazeera's Azad Essa was in Karuba to witness the first phase of M23's withdrawal.