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Fighting Erupts Between DRC Army and M23 Just Before Ceasefire Deadline

Fighting between Armed Forces of Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) troops and the March 23 Movement (M23) rebels has erupted in Rutshuru territory this Friday, just a few hours to the expiry of withdraw order by mediating African leaders.       

After a meeting on Wednesday this week in Angola’s capital Luanda, Tete António Angolan Foreign Minister released a statement affirming that the leaders from DR Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, and Angola, and former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta who is mediating the crisis signed an agreement declaring an immediate cease-fire of fighting.

M23 rebels were given 48 hours to withdraw from all captured positions to gazetted ones of Tchanzu and Runyoni.  The ultimatum ends this Friday evening at 06:00 PM.

The agreement also involves the cessation of all support to armed groups, M23, Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) as well as the resumption of dialogue between Rwanda and the DRC leading to the normalization of diplomatic relations.   

M23 rebels are also required to hand over all fighting equipment. According to the final communiqué, “if the M23 refuses to disengage, the East African Heads of State will instruct the regional force to use force to induce them to submit.       

However, fighting which had paused for about two days resumed on Friday in Chumba locality, Bishusha groupement, Bwito chiefdom, Rutshuru territory.  Fighting also happened in Rusekera,  Swagara villages, and Kabarozi  hill same grouping, according to very reliable  local sources.  a local source told our reporter that FARDC soldiers launched an attack using heavy and light weapons against rebel positions in the area from 0708hrs.       

Fresh fighting has caused the movement of civilians towards Kitshanga and other villages in Masisi territory. Both rebels and government troops are yet to release an official statement about the fresh fighting.    

M23 rebels are also yet to withdraw from their positions, in accordance with Luanda agreement. 

Lawrence Kanyuka, M23 rebels’ political spokesperson says in a statement that M23 is aware of the Luanda documents through social media. He says that since they were not at the summit, the document does not concern them.

“M23 has seen the document on social media… There was nobody at the summit (from M23) so it doesn’t really concern us. Normally when there is a ceasefire it is between the two warring sides,” Kanyuka says.       

Meanwhile, three more FARDC soldiers have today been sentenced to death by the Goma military garrison court after pleading guilty to fleeing from the enemy.       The convicts are Corporal Dady Mununu, Private 2nd Class Makadi Mukendi, and another only identified Captain Pitchen. 

They appeared before the court sitting in the village of Buhombo, Munigi grouping, and were accused of having fled before the enemy and sowing panic this November among the civilians at the camp for displaced persons in Kanyaruchina, Nyiragongo territory.

They were also accused of cowardice before the enemy.   On November 15, thousands of refugees were seen fleeing Kanyaruchinya refugee camp after a rumor started circulating that M23 rebels are a few kilometers advancing to capture the place. 

Panic increased after refugees saw FARDC soldiers also fleeing towards Goma. In his ruling, Colonel Amusini Lazare president of the military tribunal said that three soldiers committed offenses punishable by article 57 of the military penal code, book 2. 

He says that all the convicts still have the right to appeal.       Three soldiers; Pascal Luzo Ombeni, Alex Chilumba, belonging to the 212th Battalion, and Mutiti Nzee of the 21st brigade were sentenced to death after pleading guilty to similar charges earlier this month.

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