Kinshasa – The Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday accused the M23 rebels of never fully withdrawing from the key eastern city of Goma, despite pledging to do so in a ceasefire brokered by East African nations to end the long-running conflict.
“They never completely withdrew, they never carried out the terms of the statement by the heads of state” of the Great Lake region, government spokesman Lambert Mende said.
“These are people who go from provocation to provocation. We expect everything, absolutely everything from our attackers.”
The rebels captured the mining hub of Goma on November 20 and withdrew 11 days later. Under the ceasefire deal, they agreed to pull back at least 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the city in exchange for talks with the Kinshasa government.
Those negotiations are currently under way in the Ugandan capital Kampala, the latest in several bids to end a conflict that has forced more than 900,000 people in DR Congo’s eastern North Kivu province from their homes.
But on Monday, the United Nations said that it had stepped up air and group patrols in eastern region after reports that rebels were again gathering around Goma.
UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said it had confirmed that the rebels have moved into some positions away from the city in breach of UN Security Council resolutions.
North Kivu “remains tense and fragile” because of movements of M23 rebels around Goma, Nesirky told reporters.
UN experts have also accused neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda of backing the rebels, charges both countries deny.
According to military sources, rights activists and residents, Rwandan troops have on several occasions crossed into the DR Congo since early December.
On Tuesday, Mende said that “it’s not only the M23 that’s gathering around Goma”, but stopped short of naming the others.
M23 is comprised mainly of former rebels who were integrated into the army under a peace accord signed on March 23, 2009. The rebels accuse President Joseph Kabila’s government of failing to fully implement that agreement.