Tension as M23, DRC govt attack each other

Saturday October 19 2013

M23 rebel fighters. Tension is brewing again in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo after a few weeks of a lull in fighting was interrupted by hostilities between government and rebel forces. Photo/AFP

Tension is brewing again in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo after a few weeks of a lull in fighting was interrupted by hostilities between government and rebel forces late this past week.

It is feared this could lead to the collapse of ongoing talks between the government and M23 rebel movement in Kampala.

Congolese forces briefly attacked rebel positions at Kanyamahoro, several kilometres north of Goma, in the wee hours of Tuesday, resulting in an exchange of fire, days after the 14-day moratorium aimed at allowing peace talks to progress had expired.

Just a few days before, the rebels had reportedly shot at an unarmed United Nations helicopter for violating their zone.

It is now feared that both the government and M23 could be on the verge of a falling-out as the talks seem to be making little progress.

The leader of the rebels, Bertrand Basimwa, issued a statement saying his fighters could not sit back as their positions were being attacked. Military spokesperson Col Olivier Hamuli confirmed the fighting, telling reporters that government forces wanted to neutralise a “rebel threat.”


“The war will resume because our positions are being shelled by government forces. M23 has the mandate to protect its people and their property,” the M23 head Rene Abandi said as the delegation in Kampala threatened to pull out of the talks in protest of the attacks.

The rebels accuse the government of President Joseph Kabila for the stalled talks despite recent assurances of a deal from partner states. However, sources close to Kinshasa indicate that the government is not ready to give in to the demands of the rebels.

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It is however believed that President Kabila’s government is divided on the position to take in the talks.

“Some members of the government, including the likes of Government Spokesperson Lambert Mende and Foreign Minister Raymond Tshibanda, are against the government giving in to the conditions and ultimatums set by the rebels while others say the government should ease up,” a source in the talks said.

The Kinshasa delegation in Kampala, which does not include top decision makers, has been hesitant to agree to some of the M23’s demands while the rebels, too, are not willing to let up.

ALSO READ: Kabila chooses force over peace talks to control eastern Congo

“It is a deadlock at the moment. Both delegations seem to be running out of steam, even though the government of Uganda seems determined to keep the talks going until a deal is reached,” the source further revealed.

Kinshasa accused the rebels of setting unnecessary restrictions and demands.

But Rwanda is still hopeful that the talks, which were initiated by the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) Heads of States, will deliver a peace deal to end hostilities for good.

President Paul Kagame said although the renewed skirmishes were likely to give the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) an opportunity to reorganise and rearm, Rwanda had no plans to enter DR Congo.

The president said Rwanda would wish to see an end to the longstanding conflict.

He again denied his country’s alleged links to M23 rebels, arguing that recent reports of purported recruits who fled to Uganda were “fabricated.”