M23 Rebels End Rebellion, Say Ready to Disarm

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s M23 rebel group declared an end to its 20-month rebellion on Tuesday and said it was ready to disarm, demobilize troops and pursue a political solution to end the crisis in the east of the country.

The M23 declaration was issued hours after government forces drove the rebel fighters out of their last two strongholds at around 3 am local time on Tuesday.

African leaders had urged the group to renounce their rebellion and allow the signing of a peace agreement with President Joseph Kabila’s government.

“The chief of general staff and the commanders of all major units are requested to prepare troops for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration on terms to be agreed with the government of Congo,” M23 leader Bertrand Bisimwa said in a statement.

Congolese government spokesman Laurent Mende said many rebel fighters were surrendering after government soldiers seized control of Tshanzu and Runyoni. Mende said the Kinshasa government was ready to pursue peace talks.

“In a region that has suffered so much, this is obviously a significant positive step in the right direction,” Russ Feingold, U.S. special envoy to the Congo and the Great Lakes region, told reporters at a briefing in Pretoria.