THE M23 rebels have declared unilateral ceasefire ahead of the second round of negotiations with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) government in Kampala, Uganda.
This raises hope that the eastern DRC conflict may come to a peaceful resolution that has been backed by leaders of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region.
M23's Executive Secretary and chief rebel negotiator Francois Rucogoza told reporters in the Ugandan capital Kampala yesterday that they would go on with the peace talks with or without the DRC signing a ceasefire.
"This should not be a signal that we have been defeated. We are peace-loving people and we think that we should go on with other items on the agenda until the DRC government deems it fit to sign the cease-fire agreement," Rucogoza told journalists at a news briefing.
Clusters that compose the agenda for the dialogue include review of the March 23, 2009 agreement (that ended an earlier rebellion), security issues, social, economic and political matters as well as the mechanism for implementation of various resolutions.
While underscoring that M23 showed a gesture of love for peace when they pulled out of Goma, last year, Rucogoza urged the ICGR and the international community to prevail on Kinshasa to sign the ceasefire agreement.
"It should be a clear message to the international community that by not signing a ceasefire agreement, the DRC government has a hidden agenda and that they are ready for war," Rucogoza said.
The movement's spokesman, Col. Jean Marie Vianney Kazarama, said his rebel group will exercise maximum restraint when DRC forces, backed by the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), attack their positions.
"We shall naturally defend ourselves, but before we do that we shall report this to both the regional leaders and the international community," Kazarama said.
Ever since they arrived in Kampala, last week, both the DRC government and the M23 rebels delegations have been separately consulting with Uganda's Minister of Defence, Dr. Crispus Kiyonga.