DR Congo: M23 Pledges to Retreat from Key Position

In a statement issued Friday, the M23 rebel group — which has seized swaths of territory in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) — announced that it would withdraw from the town of Kibumba, a commercial hub of roughly 1M people that the rebels took over in 2012.

DR Congo: M23 Pledges to Retreat from Key Position
Image credit: AFP [via Al Jazeera]

Facts

  • In a statement issued Friday, the M23 rebel group — which has seized swaths of territory in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) — announced that it would withdraw from the town of Kibumba, a commercial hub of roughly 1M people that the rebels took over in 2012.
  • The Tutsi-led force, which emerged from inactivity in late 2021 and has since swept across the DRC's North Kivu province, has caused thousands of people to flee. Kibumba lies on the frontline between M23 and Congolese troops on a critical highway.
  • M23 said its decision to hand Kibumba over to the East African nation's government was a "goodwill gesture" aligned with recent peace talks that took place in Angola. The group also urged their opposition to "grab this opportunity with both hands."
  • The DRC has blamed neighboring Rwanda for supporting M23, accusations Kigali denies, though the US, France, other Western nations, and the UN agree with the DRC's perspective. Rwanda has been excluded from a regional peacekeeping operation, to which Kenya and Burundi have already sent peacekeeping forces.
  • The recent withdrawal comes after peace talks between the DRC and Rwanda established a truce on Nov. 23 — a deal in which M23 was to lay down their weapons and withdraw from occupied territories, though they never did.

Sources: Pan African Dispatch, France24, Dnyuz, and Al Jazeera.

Narratives

  • Establishment-critical narrative, as provided by East African. With an alleged history of backing the Rwandan genocide against Tutsis in 1994, France and its Western allies should refrain from blaming Rwanda for the current diplomatic and military crisis. Though the DRC, Rwanda, and M23 should work to honor the Luanda peace agreement, we also can't forget that M23 was never allowed to take part in those talks. Blaming the government of a neighboring state will do nothing to solve the problem in the DRC itself.
  • Pro-establishment narrative, as provided by The Star. The UN, the US, Belgium, and France have all investigated the crisis and found Rwanda to be backing the rebels. Peace is possible, but only if all sides — especially Kigali — live up to the promises they've made during talks. While France has acknowledged it failed to heed warnings of the 1994 Rwandan genocide and has since apologized, that doesn't mean Paris is lying about the current situation in the DRC.