M23 to withdraw from key occupied position in NE DR Congo

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The M23 rebel group, who have seized swaths of territory in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, have pledged to retreat from a strategic front-line position.

In a statement on Friday, the rebels announced that it would withdraw from its position in the town of Kibumba – about 20 kilometres (12 miles) from Goma, a commercial hub of over one million people, which the M23 briefly overran during their first big insurrection in 2012..

Kibumba lies on the current front line between the M23 and Congolese troops, on a key highway leading to the city.

The M23 stated it was handing Kibumba over to the East African Community’s military force as a “goodwill gesture” in line with recent peace talks in Angola’s capital Luanda. It urged the authorities in Kinshasa to “grab this opportunity with both hands”.

A Tutsi-led group, the M23 rebel group re-emerged from dormancy late last year and has since advanced across the country’s troubled North Kivu province, and caused hundreds of thousands of people to flee in fear.

The DRC has accused its smaller central African neighbour Rwanda of backing the group, something which Kigali denies.

But the United States and France, among other Western countries as well as United Nations experts, agree with the DRC’s assessment.

Rwanda has also been excluded from a regional peacekeeping contingent, to which Burundi and Kenya have already sent troops.

Talks between the DRC and Rwanda in the Angolan capital Luanda unlocked a truce agreement on November 23.

Under the deal, the M23 was meant to lay down arms, and then pull back from occupied territories. The rebels remained in their positions, however.

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