The much-anticipated dialogue between the M23 rebels and the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo is hanging in balance once again after a twist in agreed terms and conditions.
There has been a lull after the guns went silent in Rutshuru, North Kivu Province, in anticipation of talks between the two sides, months after the rebel group conquered the main Uganda-DR Congo border of Bunagana and neighbouring areas. Even the recent deployment of Kenyan troops in Eastern DR Congo had not yet created any impact as a face-off between the rebels has not yet started as they wait for the dialogue to begin.
However, Professor Serge Tshibangu, the DRC special representative of the Head of State at the East African Community told a United Nations Radio Station (Radio Okapi) in North Kivu this week that the M23 rebels can only be admitted to the Nairobi process after withdrawing from all positions they are currently occupying.
According to Tshibangu, rebels must first withdraw from, in particular, Bunagana and all the localities they have occupied for four months, or else there will be no negotiations. Still this week, Patrick Muyaya, the DRC government spokesperson also said that M23 does not exist and if it does, it is a creation of Rwanda, to destabilise DRC. The Rwanda administration has strongly denied the accusations.
However, in a statement dated October 14 and released on Saturday by Lawrence Kanyuka, the M23 rebels’ political spokesperson protested Tshibangu’s statement describing it as an outrageous threat. The rebel group argues that the DRC government is again showing the world the face of the umpteenth refusal of the dialogue by rejecting the hand of the organization for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
The M23 rebels also accuse the DRC government of being unable to end xenophobia, hate speech, and failure to restore peace in Kwamouth, Beni, Butembo, Ituri, Masisi, and Minembwe. They say that instead, the government is storming itself against the M23, while allowing Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo (APCLS), Mai-Mai, Nyatura, Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), and Cooperative for Development of the Congo (CODECO) rebels to freely slaughter the citizens.
The statement also claims that M23 is observing front-line reinforcement of military equipment and troops by the coalition of Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC), FDLR, APCLS, Nyatura, and Mai-Mai with an imminent offensive against their (M23) positions. But they add that should their positions be attacked, they will vigorously defend themselves to counter the threat wherever it may be in order to protect the civilian population and their belongings
This is happening at a time when thousands of refugees who had fled to Uganda in Kisoro district are crossing to their country after rejected a plan by the government of Uganda to relocate them to refugee camps from Nyakabande transit centre.
Fighting between M23 rebels and FARDC started in March this year and on June 13, the rebel groups captured Bunagana border and neighbouring areas. M23 movement says that they are fighting a justified battle seeking to end bad leadership in DRC based on corruption, xenophobia, and discrimination.