Democratic Republic of Congo’s M23 Rebels Declare Cease-Fire

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s M23 rebel movement declared a cease-fire and called on President Joseph Kabila’s government to do the same.

The rebels, who have been fighting government forces in mineral-rich eastern Congo, made the call before a new round of peace talks. Neighboring Uganda is brokering negotiations amid allegations that Rwanda is supporting M23.

“We still want the government to sign a cease-fire, we are pressing them to sign,” Francois Rucogoza, M23’s executive secretary, told reporters today in Uganda’s capital, Kampala. “We want peace to return to eastern Congo.

M23, named after a 2009 peace accord in the region, captured the eastern city of Goma, capital of North Kivu province, on Nov. 20. The rebels withdrew Dec. 1 under United Nations supervision after the warring parties agreed to negotiate the implementation of the peace agreement.

The M23 rebels are ‘‘ready for a restart of talks’’ and are awaiting word from Ugandan Defense Minister Crispus Kiyonga, who is the mediator, rebel group spokesman Bertrand Bizimwa said today. Talks that took place last month were suspended over the holiday season, he added.

For more than a decade, armed groups have thrived in eastern Congo, often supporting themselves by exploiting the area’s natural resources, according to the country’s Mines Ministry and the UN. The region is rich in tin ore, gold, and coltan, an ore used in electronics. Companies including Soco International Plc and Total SA are exploring for oil in North Kivu province, where the M23 rebels are based.

Congo’s government and UN investigators have accused neighboring Rwanda of supporting the rebels, which the country denies. The two nations have fought directly or through rebel proxies in eastern Congo since the mid-1990s. The 2009 peace agreement between Rwandan-backed rebels and Congo improved the countries’ relationship until the M23 rebellion began in April.

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