Congo’s Divided M23 Rebels Clash Amid Feud Over Group Leadership

Democratic Republic of Congo’s M23 rebels that have split into two factions clashed in the country’s east as they argue over who commands the group.

Troops loyal to General Bosco Ntaganda, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, and others who support Brigadier General Sultani Makenga fought today in Rutshuru territory in eastern Congo, according to both sides. Neither group gave information on casualties.

“Instructions were given to our forces to capture those responsible” for the fighting, including Ntaganda and M23 political head Jean-Marie Runiga, Makenga said in an e-mailed statement. Earlier this week, Makenga announced that Runiga was no longer an M23 leader and called on soldiers supporting Bosco and Runiga to return to his command.

Colonel Seraphin Mirindi, who said he’s a spokesman for M23, answered Runiga’s phone when called for comment today. “General Makenga is no longer in the army of the M23,” he said from the Nyiragongo area of eastern Congo, where his troops were reinforcing their positions.

M23 is mainly made up of rebels who had joined the national army and mutinied in April. The group took the trading hub of Goma in November, before pulling back to begin peace negotiations with the government.

Congo accuses neighboring Rwanda of supporting the rebels, which Rwanda denies. Eastern Congo is rich in tin ore, gold, and coltan, an ore used in electronics.

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