DRC president says M23 rebels yet to withdraw as agreed

According to an agreement brokered by regional leaders, the rebels were to withdraw from recently seized positions.

DRC President Felix Tshisekedi
DRC President Felix Tshisekedi speaks during a joint news conference in Paris on May 18, 2021 [File: Ludovic Marin/AFP]

The president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Felix Tshisekedi, says the M23 rebel group has not fully withdrawn from areas seized in the country’s east, accusing the militia of faking an agreed pullback of its forces.

“Despite the international pressure, the group is still there,” Tshisekedi said on Tuesday during a panel session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

“They pretend to move, they act like they are moving, but they’re not. They’re simply moving around, redeploying elsewhere, and they stay in the towns that they have captured,” he said. His comments were the most outspoken from the Congolese authorities so far on how they view the implementation of the peace deal.

Regional leaders brokered an agreement in November 2022 under which the Tutsi-led group was meant to withdraw from recently seized positions by January 15 as part of efforts to end a conflict that has displaced at least 450,000 people. It has also sparked a diplomatic crisis between DRC and neighbouring Rwanda.

“President Tshisekedi has only this to say. It is the government that does not respect the ceasefire. It also continues to arm armed groups,” said Lawrence Kanyaka, a spokesman for the M23.

Earlier in January, an internal United Nations intelligence report said it was not possible to confirm the M23’s purported withdrawal from some areas due to continued signs of troop movement, and its analysis indicated the group had seized new territory elsewhere.

Tshisekedi again accused Rwanda of fuelling the conflict by supporting the rebels – an accusation levelled also by Western powers and UN experts. Rwanda firmly denies this.

Several civil society organisations have called for a demonstration on Wednesday in the provincial capital, Goma, to protest delays in implementing the M23 withdrawal, although city authorities have not authorised the march.

Source: News Agencies