25 November 2012

Congo-Kinshasa: AU Urges M23 Rebels to End War

The African Union has called on M23 rebels occupying a key town in eastern DR Congo to stop fighting, as diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis continue.

In a statement released Sunday, the AU echoed a call by regional Heads of State under the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), at a summit on Saturday, for the M23 rebels to stop fighting and withdraw from the regional capital of Goma.

It also welcomed a commitment by the DR Congo government to resolve the rebels' grievances.

AU chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma "welcomes the commitment of the government of the DRC to listen, evaluate and resolve any legitimate grievances of the M23. She urges the M23 immediately to take the steps expected of it," the AU said in a statement.

The summit... outlined a 10-point plan that provides for the immediate withdrawal of the M23 elements from all the locations they recently occupied, as well as the establishment of security arrangements to monitor the situation on the ground.

Dlamini Zuma reiterated the "AU's deep concern at the worsening humanitarian situation on the ground and the abuses committed against the civilian populations," the statement added.

Reports indicated the political leader of the M23, Jean-Marie Runiga Lugerero, had expected to hold further talks Sunday with DR Congo President Joseph Kabila after reportedly seeing him on Saturday night after the summit of the 11-member International Conference on the Great Lakes.

But by press time it was not clear if the two had met.

Uncertainty meanwhile hung over the fate of Goma, the capital of the restive province of North Kivu.

Leaders at Saturday's summit in Kampala said the rebels should withdraw to positions at least 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of the town, which the guerrillas -- former army soldiers who staged a mutiny in April -- seized on Tuesday.

That would mean the rebels returning to the positions they held before launching the assault that claimed Goma.

The regional leaders said the pull-out should be done within 48 hours.

The M23 was launched by former rebel group [CNDP] who were integrated into the military under a 2009 peace deal that they claim was never fully implemented.

In exchange for a pull-out, the DR Congo government said at the summit it was committed to "listen to, evaluate and resolve any legitimate grievances" the M23 has.

The M23's advance has displaced tens of thousands of civilians, some fleeing to Rwanda, sparked warnings of humanitarian disaster, and raised fears that a wider conflict could again erupt in the volatile area.

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