By Spy Uganda Correspondent
The M23 rebel group fighting the DR Congo army FARDC in the east of the country say they want ‘direct’ talks with the Kinshasa government.
The rebels have made the call after attempts to resume peace talks in Nairobi on Monday, November 21 failed.
Media reports say the Kinshasa government wants the M23 to withdraw from all captured territories as a precondition for talks – a concession the rebels have declined.
The Eastern provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri have been restive for nearly three decades and remain home to over 120 armed groups accused of various abuses.
Speaking to media on Tuesday, Laurence Kanyuka, a spokesperson for M23, said the international community should pressure the Congolese government to observe a ceasefire signed in April this year.
“We already have a ceasefire, what the M23 is doing at the moment is to protect itself against the ongoing attacks of the DRC government,” Kanyuka said.
Kanyuka also added that the FARDC and its allies are attacking civilians, adding that the M23 were fighting for their citizenship rights.
“One should know that we are Congolese; the M23 movement is a Congolese movement. And we have rights, like the rest of the Congolese in this country,” he said.
“However, when it comes to the protection of the people, the M23 will spare no effort to do so. The DRC government has failed to protect its citizens.”
The Congolese government has for months labelled the M23 rebel group as a terrorist movement, excluding them from the Nairobi peace process, which started in April.
He accused the government forces of using warplanes, tanks to “bomb and kill” which has led to “humanitarian crisis that we see today.”
“This is not a warmongering movement; we’re here for peace. We ask for a direct dialogue with the DRC government to sort out this ongoing crisis politically,” Kanyuka said.
Intense fighting on October 20 led to the displacement of over 188,000 people, according to the UN.
Renewed clashes between the M23 and FARDC on November 11 near Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, led to further displacement, with some of the residents fleeing to Rwanda.
The East African Community has resolved to deploy troops to eastern DR Congo. Some 900 Kenyan troops are already in Goma and a Ugandan contingent is set to arrive by the end of November.
Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye recently said his country would be deploying soon.