Fighting rages on in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where government forces have dismissed a unilateral ceasefire by M23 rebels and attacked their last strongholds, even as diplomats scrambled to find a political solution.
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s government on Monday formally rejected a ceasefire offer from the M23 rebel group and pressed its military advantage in the eastern border of the war-torn country.
In a statement, the government “acknowledged” the ceasefire offer made by M23 chairman Bertrand Bisimwa at peace negotiations in neighbouring Uganda on Sunday, but called instead on the rebel movement to “move immediately into barracks for disarmament and demobilisation as agreed in the conclusions of the Kampala talks."
“What is expected is not a ceasefire. It is the end of all military activities by M23,” the statement added.
The army continued its offensive on Monday in the rebels’ last strongholds in North Kivu province, near the borders of Rwanda and Uganda.
“We have just taken Mbuzi hill,” one of the three hilltop positions that remained under M23 control, army spokesman Col. Olivier Hamuli told FRANCE 24 shortly after 12.00 GMT.
He said government troops were reacting to M23’s shelling of the market in the nearby town of Bunagana in the morning, which killed civilians and injured several others.
A UN aid worker on the Ugandan side of the border told Reuters news agency that “the streets [were] full of people running from the fighting”.
“They say they have a ceasefire, but they fire at civilians,” Col. Hamuli said in defence of the army offensive.
On their Twitter account, M23 fighters first said they were sticking to the ceasefire, then wrote that they were fighting back near Bunagana.
Kambasu Ngeve, an M23 negotiator in Kampala, blamed the latest violence on the government.
“We have an agreement here in Kampala, it has been accepted by all parties but the government side refused to sign it yesterday and is still refusing to sign it,” he said.
Kambasu added that M23 had already accepted the demobilisation of its fighters as part of the draft agreement.
But many observers have noted the lack of agreement on the fate of rebel leaders in recent peace talks.
In a joint statement issued on Monday, UN special envoy for the Great Lakes Mary Robinson and her African Union, US and EU counterparts “urged the M23 to renounce its rebellion as already agreed” and “called upon the government of the DRC to restrain from further military action at this stage”.
The diplomats called on “both parties to remain committed to seeing the political process through to a final and principled agreement that ensures the disarmament and demobilisation of the M23 and accountability for human rights abuses”.
A joint ministerial meeting of the Southern African Development Community and International Conference on the Great Lakes member states is scheduled in South Africa on Monday to discuss the situation in eastern DRC.
Date created : 2013-11-04