[QODLink]
Africa

DR Congo rebels threaten to ditch peace talks

M23 rebellion leaders demand DRC government sign ceasefire as pre-condition for second round of negotiations in Uganda.
Last Modified: 04 Jan 2013 09:07
M23 rebels said their delegation will return to DR Congo unless the Congo government signs a ceasefire deal [AFP]

Congolese rebels have threatened to walk away from this week's peace talks to end their nine-month revolt unless the government signs an official ceasefire, a demand Kinshasa dismissed as unnecessary.

The rebel March 23 Movement, preparing for talks on Friday in Kampala, capital of regional mediator Uganda, said government troops had reinforced positions in the east of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and warned it would resist an offensive.

"If Kinshasa continues to refuse to sign a ceasefire, M23 is going to ask its delegation to return to DRC. We will wait and when they say 'we're ready to sign [a ceasefire]' we'll go back," Jean-Marie Runiga, head of the rebels' political wing, told reporters in Bunagana, a border town under rebel control.

The first attempt at peace talks to end the nine-month rebellion in Congo's volatile east failed last month amid threats and accusations. A government spokesman dismissed the rebel demand.

Ceasefire rejected

"There's no point in a ceasefire. When did we declare war?" Lambert Mende told the Reuters news agency by telephone.

"This group wants permission to kill Congolese without the army reacting, and we will never accept that. If they attack us, attack the people, the army will defend the people."

Negotiations began last month after regional leaders secured a rebel pull-out from the city of Goma in Congo's eastern North Kivu province.

The front lines have been quiet since, although the talks quickly stalled in a climate of deep mistrust.

Foreign powers fear the conflict could spark another regional war in a borderlands zone that has suffered nearly two decades of turmoil.

Neighbouring Uganda and Rwanda are accused by a group of UN experts of supporting the rebel campaign.

Successive cross-border conflicts have killed and uprooted millions in the Congo basin since the colonial era, driven by political and ethnic divisions and competition for minerals.

UN blacklisted

At first, M23, named after a 2009 peace deal for eastern Congo, said it had taken up arms because the Kinshasa government failed to honour its side of the bargain, under which rebel fighters were integrated into the army.

It later broadened its goals to include the "liberation" of all of Congo and the removal of President Joseph Kabila.

M23 is led by Bosco Ntaganda, a Tutsi warlord indicted by the International Criminal Court. This week the United Nations blacklisted M23 along with another Congolese rebel group.

"We need encouragement from the UN, not sanctions," Runiga, flanked by fighters, said.

Nestled in lush green hills less than a kilometre from the Ugandan frontier, Bunagana fell into rebel hands last July after government soldiers fled.

The other group hit with UN sanctions was the FDLR, or Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda. The FDLR is a Rwandan Hutu group that opposes Rwandan President Paul Kagame's Tutsi-led government and includes militiamen suspected of participating in Rwanda's 1994 genocide.

One M23 commander, Bertrand Bisimwa, said Congo's government had air-dropped FDLR fighters to reinforce army positions near Goma last month. Officials from the government were not immediately available to comment on the accusation.

511

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Israel's Operation Protective Edge is the third major offensive on the Gaza Strip in six years.
Muslims and Arabs in the US say they face discrimination in many areas of life, 13 years after the 9/11 attacks.
At one UN site alone, approximately four children below the age of five are dying each day.
Featured
More than fifty years of an armed struggle for independence from Spain might be coming to an end in the Basque Country.
After the shooting-down of flight MH17, relatives ask what the carrier has learned from still-missing MH370.
Human rights and corporate responsibility prompt a US church to divest from companies doing business with Israel.
Afghan militias have accumulated a lengthy record of human-rights abuses, including murders and rapes.
Growing poverty is strengthening a trend among UK Muslims to fund charitable work closer to home.
join our mailing list