M23 Rebels Agree to Leave North Kivu After Meeting Uhuru Kenyatta

Bertrand Bisimwa, the President of the March 23 Movement (M23) rebels on Thursday evening held a meeting with Uhuru Kenyatta, the former president of Kenyan in the coastal city of Mombasa.

The meeting is one of the steps to implement the peace deal in North Kivu province, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo -DRC.

The M23 leadership had in November 2022 requested to directly meet Uhuru, who is the main facilitator of the peace deal to also raise their concerns behind the raging fight against the DR Congo government.   

M23 launched a fight against the DR Congo government in March 2022. The fighting led to several areas in Rutshuru, Nyiragongo, and Masisi territories including the Uganda-DR Congo border of Bunagana and Busanza falling into the hands of the rebels.  

Fighting has also forced other armed militia groups like Mai Mai, Nyatura, Congolese Patriotic Resistance Fighters / Strike Force (Résistants Patriotes Congolais/Force de frappe- PARECO/FF), and Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) to make a coalition with Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) to fight against M23 rebels.

The handover of Kibumba position in Nyiragongo territory in December 2022 and Rumangabo in Rutshuru territory early this month was in honor of the Luanda and Nairobi agreements resolutions which demanded cease-fire and withdrawal of all armed groups from captured positions, as M23 pressed on for a meeting with Kenyatta.

On Thursday night, the East African Community released a statement confirming the meeting between Kenyatta and Bisimwa alongside other M23 political and military officials in Kenya.

According to the statement, the issues discussed include M23’s willingness to pursue a withdrawal and observe a strict ceasefire, return of all displaced and refugee citizens back to DR Congo, respect and recognition of Congolese citizens’ and ceasing all fighting or attacks against the M-23 and seeking to resolve the conflict by peaceful means among others.

The DR Congo government is yet to openly react Bisimwa other M23 leaders’ meet with Uhuru. Biwimwa and Uhuru’s meeting comes hours after a section of civil society leaders in North Kivu early on Thursday give East African Community Regional force soldiers six days ultimatum to have launched an assault against M23 or else they (locals) start demonstrations demanding its departure from Congolese soil.

Civil society leaders argue that they don’t even know the use of the EAC force in DR Congo so far yet it was called to support the FARDC in the fight against M23 rebels but on the field, there is no military operation being launched.

DR Congo government has repeatedly described M23’s withdrawal from Kibumba and Rumangabo as a sham and a tactic to capture Goma using surprise means. DR Congo government has also repeatedly accused Rwanda of backing M23, accusations that Rwanda and M23 strongly deny.

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