M23 Withdraws from Kibumba, Hands Over Position to EAC Regional Force

M23 rebels have withdrawn from their position in Kibumba in Nyiragongo territory, North Kivu in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as one of the steps towards implementing the Luganda and Angola peace deal agreements. The rebels have controlling Kibumba about 29.7 Kilometers from Goma city since November this year. 

M23, which launched assaults against the Congolese government (FARDC) troops in March this year has captured several areas of Rutshuru territory including the Uganda-DR Congo borders of Bunagana and Busanza. On Friday morning, M23 issued a statement inviting the leaders of the East African Community Forces for the handover of Kibumba.

In a statement signed by Lawrence Kanyuka, the political statement of the Movement says the aim of handing over Kibumba is to show the DR Congo government that M23 is ready for dialogue to find a permanent solution to the conflict. He also says that the decision is aimed at giving DR Congo government an opportunity to implement the resolutions in the summits to restore peace in the country.       

On Friday afternoon, East African Community Regional Forces officials in the area led by their Commander, Major General Jeff Nyagah appeared in Kibumba to take charge of the rebel position. Colonel John Imani Nzenze represented the M23 hierarchy during the handover of Kibumba. After receiving Kibumba, Nyagah asked locals who fled the clashes to return to their homes because it is now safe. He also thanked M23 for demonstrating goodwill of withdrawal.  

M23 rebels have however not handed over any fighting equipment.   

Bertrand Bisimwa, M23 rebels President issued a statement on Twitter, saying that with the withdrawal from Kibumba, the rebels hope to see government trigger a real peace process that will allow the displaced people of Kanyarucinya to return to their homes and the inhabitants of Goma to stock up on food through the reopening of the Goma-Rutshuru road during these end-of-year festivities.                   

The November Summit in Angola’s capital, Luanda attracted leaders from DR Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, and Angola, and former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. It was agreed that M23 rebels immediately cease fire, withdraw from all the captured positions in 48 hours and assemble in Tchanzu and Runyoni.     

The agreement also called for the cessation of all support to armed groups including the M23 and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) as well as the resumption of dialogue between Rwanda and DRC leading to the normalization of diplomatic relations. The leaders also resolved that the M23 rebels hand over all their military equipment or else face a regional force agreed upon by the East African Heads of State. 

The same resolutions were made by the Nairobi summit.  M23 however remained hesitant to withdraw until this month 6, when they announced readiness in a press statement. But, they later made U-turn and claimed that they have no assurance that they will be attacked by FARDC or Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and be again deployed in the withdrawn positions.                                                                  

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