African leaders’ DRC ceasefire agreement ‘doesn’t really concern us’, says rebel military group M23

M23 the rebel military group has announced that the recently declared ceasefire in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which was aimed in particular at stopping their attacks, “doesn’t really concern” them.

Calling for a direct dialogue with the DRC government the rebel group said “M23 has seen the document on social media… There was nobody in the summit (from M23) so it doesn’t really concern us.”

Watch | African leaders agree on ‘immediate ceasefire’ in violence-torn eastern DRC

Speaking to AFP, the group’s political spokesperson Lawrence Kanyuka added that “Normally when there is a ceasefire it is between the two warring sides.”

He said that the rebels established a “unilateral ceasefire” in April and claimed that as per him it was still in effect.

In a declaration issued by the leaders of the African nations of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, and Angola, along with former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta said that M23 has to comply with the ceasefire and also withdraw from its occupied territories. It warned that if the group fails to do this, it will face intervention by regional forces.

“If M23 does not withdraw the East African Community (EAC) heads of states shall authorise the use of force to compel the group to comply.” 

However, Kanyuka declared “we will still be there”. 

“If tomorrow at 6:00 pm (1600 GMT), or in the morning, the government doesn’t attack us, we will still be there,” he said. 

Otherwise, “we are defending ourselves,” he added.

To address the underlying issues that lead to conflicts, he claimed that the group was, “always ready for a direct dialogue with the Congolese government.”

The ceasefire was reached at a mini-summit in the Angolan capital of Luanda on Wednesday. 

It calls for the end of hostilities in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo as of Friday night and the M23 rebels’ “withdrawal to their initial positions” after evacuating “occupied zones.”

Ruling out direct negotiations with the group Congo’s foreign minister, Christophe Lutundula, said: “Tomorrow, 6:00 pm, the M23 must stop all its attacks” during a press conference on Thursday in Kinshasa.

(With inputs from agencies)

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