M23 Rebels Suspend Talks With DRC Govt Over UN Mandate

The March 23 movement (M23) rebels say they have put peace talks with the Democratic Republic of Congo’s government on hold over a UN mandate authorizing a brigade to attack the militant group in the country’s east.


M23 Rebels.
M23 Rebels.

“For us, as M23, there is a break from the talks” when the UN is set to deploy troops fight the rebels, said Rene Abandi, leader of the M23 delegation at peace talks with Congolese government in neighboring Uganda.


“We will hope that the government (of Congo) will understand later that war can’t solve the conflict in eastern Congo,” he said on Wednesday.

“They are coming with an offensive mandate. That’s not good,” Abandi said, warning against returning to full-blown war in the country’s troubled east.

Stanislas Baleke, an official of M23’s political branch, also said on Tuesday that the rebels “are waiting for the brigade. We are ready. Our men are on maximum alert.”

The mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo, known as MONUSCO, was recently renewed by the Security Council. The new mandate allows the creation of a special unit, called the Force Intervention Brigade, to carry out targeted offensive operations against armed groups rather than merely protecting civilians. The forces of the special unit are expected to arrive in the country before July 1.

Several armed groups, including the M23 rebels, are active in the east of the DRC and fighting for control of the country’s vast mineral resources, such as gold, the main tin ore cassiterite, and coltan (columbite-tantalite), which is used to make many electronic devices, including cell phones.

The M23 rebels seized Goma on November 20, 2012 after UN peacekeepers gave up the battle for the frontier city of one million people. M23 fighters withdrew from the city on December 1 under a ceasefire accord.

The M23 rebels defected from the Congolese Army in April 2012 in protest over alleged mistreatment in the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC). They had previously been integrated into the Congolese army under a peace deal signed in 2009.

Since early May 2012, nearly three million people have fled their homes in the eastern Congo. About 2.5 million have resettled in Congo, but more than 460,000 have crossed into neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.

Congo has faced numerous problems over the past few decades, such as grinding poverty, crumbling infrastructure, and a war in the east of the country that has dragged on since 1998 and left over 5.5 million people dead.

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