KINSHASA, March 7 (Xinhua) -- The Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) on Tuesday accused the March 23 Movement (M23) rebels of violating the latest ceasefire agreement scheduled for March 7.
Via a statement, the FARDC affirmed that the fighting "is ongoing" between the army and the M23, though the latter is supposed to respect the latest ceasefire agreement taking effect at noon on March 7.
The Congolese army alleged that M23 rebels attacked several FARDC positions in eastern North Kivu province, where tensions have been escalating for several months.
In addition, the FARDC accused the M23 rebels of firing Monday, which left three people dead and six more injured in the city of Sake, located 27 km from Goma, the capital of the North Kivu province.
After several aborted ceasefires, on March 3, the Angolan presidency, designated by the African Union as a mediator for this crisis, announced this new ceasefire taking effect at noon Tuesday, when the M23 should stop all military activities.
Despite local media reports of M23 advancements early Tuesday, the M23 declared a cease-fire to pave the way for dialogue with the Democratic Republic of the Congo government.
"The M23 hereby declares a cease-fire effective from this Tuesday, March 7, 2023, at 12:00 noon to pave way for the political process," the rebels' spokesperson Lawrence Kanyuka said in a statement.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on the M23 Monday to respect this latest ceasefire, in order to create the conditions necessary for its total and effective withdrawal from all occupied areas in the east of the country.
Since the beginning of this year, fighting has intensified between the M23 and the army in several areas north of Goma. Fighting has forced thousands of people to flee their homes to find refuge.
Apart from the mediation by the Angolan presidency, member countries of the East African Community (EAC), a regional bloc, set up a regional force last year to intervene in the ongoing situation in eastern DRC, in particular, to counter the M23.
The first contingent of Burundian soldiers was on the ground in Goma Sunday under the mandate of the EAC regional force. Since last November, a contingent of the Kenyan army has been on the ground around Goma for military intervention.
Additional troops, including those from South Sudan and Uganda, are also expected on the same mission.
The M23 emerged from the rebel group National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), which laid down arms in March 2009, following a peace agreement stipulating that its soldiers would be integrated into the Congolese police and army, while the CNDP's political wing would become an officially acknowledged party.
A faction within the CNDP, however, subsequently denounced the poor implementation of the agreement and developed into a new rebel group that came to the force as M23 in 2012. It later occupied the provincial capital of Goma in 2012.
After its military defeat in 2013 and barring some minor incidents, the M23 lay dormant for almost a decade until late 2021 when it ramped up attacks again. In addition, the M23 took control of vast parts of Rutshuru territory, in particular, the capture of the Bunagana border town in June. ■