Congolese government has rejected any direct talks with M23, while the armed group says it has no plans to withdraw.
Fighting resumed between troops in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and M23 rebels in the country’s east on Friday, as the armed group said a ceasefire deal between African leaders “doesn’t really concern” them.Reporting from Kilimanyoka, outside Goma in eastern DRC, Al Jazeera’s Malcolm Webb said fighting is ongoing in the west of M23’s territory, around Chumba, Swagara and Bwiza. Military sources told Webb that M23 is “reinforcing, bringing in more fighters, more weapons” ahead of the 16:00GMT ceasefire deadline.
M23 rebel movement is waging its most serious offensive in eastern DRC since 2012, further destabilising an area where multiple armed groups have wrangled over land and resources for decades.
The ceasefire deal brokered between African leaders in the Angolan capital Luanda on Wednesday called for the withdrawal of the rebels from “occupied zones” and their “withdrawal to their initial positions”.
But Lawrence Kanyuka, the political spokesman for M23, told the AFP news agency on Thursday that: “M23 has seen the document on social media … There was nobody in the summit [from M23] so it doesn’t really concern us … Normally when there is a ceasefire, it is between the two warring sides.”
According to Wednesday’s deal, if the rebels refuse to stop fighting, the east African regional force being deployed in Goma “will use force” to push them out.
Al Jazeera’s Webb, reporting from near the front line on Thursday, said, “Kenyan troops have arrived here in the last few weeks, started clearing ground for their first military field post which is just north of the city of Goma … UN peacekeepers are also here.”
He said in absence of a ceasefire, people were waiting to see “if the presence of more foreign forces is going to prevent further advances by the armed group”.
Thousands have been displaced in recent weeks as DRC’s army has struggled to stop the M23’s advance. Many have sought refuge in and around Goma, some 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the front line, which the rebels briefly seized in 2012 before they were pushed back the following year.
Demonstrations in Goma
On Thursday, November 24, hundreds also marched in Goma to protest against the ceasefire agreement, saying it does not tackle Rwanda’s alleged backing of the M23 group.
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