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M23 expect 'breakthroughs' in DR Congo talks

Statement from rebels talks of major progress with Congolese government at peace talks in neighbouring Uganda.

Last Modified: 19 Oct 2013 17:51
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Rebels control an area of around 700 square kilometres in the east of the DRC, bordering Rwanda and Uganda [AFP]

Rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have said they are heading towards "major breakthroughs" with the Kinshasa government in peace talks in neighbouring Uganda.

A statement by the rebels, who call themselves M23, said that under Uganda's mediation, "major breakthroughs are about to be obtained in Kampala since the heavy involvement of the international community in the dialogue".

However, Lambert Mende, a minister and Congolese government spokesman, told the AFP news agency that "breakthroughs will be measured against the final agreement," if one were signed.

"There has been some reconciliation," Mende said in Kinshasa, the DRC capital, but stressed that although the M23 could "sign today", that would "not be the end of the problem".

In contrast, the rebels referred to the "remarkable presence" of US special envoy to the Great Lakes Russ Feingold and the UN special envoy Mary Robinson as well as Martin Kobler, the head of the UN mission to the DRC, and representatives of the European Union and African Union.

The rebels take their name from a peace agreement they signed with the DRC government on March 22 2009, paving the way for their integration into the national army, but they mutinied in April 2012 over poor salaries and living conditions, renewing an armed rebellion in the country's mineral-rich east.

During talks on Friday, "the M23 made major concessions on its political demands in order to make possible the signing of the peace agreement in Kampala in the coming hours," the group said.

'Lasting peace' 

"By this act, our movement wishes to demonstrate its determination to contribute to the rapid establishment of a lasting peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo," the M23 said.

The group controls an area of around 700 square kilometres (270 square miles) in the east of the DRC, bordering Rwanda and Uganda.

Complaining that the 2009 deal was never fully implemented, they turned their guns on their former comrades and have also clashed with UN troops mandated to rein in the M23.

The United Nations regularly accuses Rwanda and Uganda of supporting the rebels, something both countries deny.

Mende affirmed that Rwanda had a key role in the outcome of rebels' future in the country, and said "the principal player could always restart this crisis. It is Rwanda's attitude that is the deciding factor".

The negotiations in Kampala, the Ugandan capital, had reportedly stumbled over the question of an amnesty for the rebels and their reintegration in the army.

Backed by the international community, the government in Kinshasa has said there will be no impunity for the main rebel leaders.

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