In what appears as the latest escalation of tensions in Eastern Congo, the rebel M23 Movement has given the DRC government an ultimatum of 48 hours to vacate their strategic stronghold Southern town of Kamahoro, Chimp Corps reports.
In a press conference held at Silver Springs Hotel in Kampala on Tuesday evening, the leader of M23 peace delegation to Kampala, Rene Abandi, said the attack was “totally unacceptable” and a “crime against peace.”
He added: “We have stopped direct contact with the government of DRC on this issue. We shall from now onwards be passing our messages through the facilitator of the peace talks (Uganda Defence Minister Crispus Kiyonga).”
The eyebrow-raising statement is likely to raises fears of a possible military confrontation between the rebels and the DRC army with its allied forces..
Abandi said Kamahoro, which is not very far from the frontline, was the last M23 stronghold in the Southern region.
Asked whether the rebel Movement responded to the attack, Abandi observed: “The military wing of M23 received orders not to retaliate to the ground attack.
“We still believe in the peaceful resolution of the conflict in Eastern Congo.”
Abandi further said the attack underscored DRC’s “barbaric attitude” at a time when “we had started building trust” in the peace process.
He further blasted the string of NGOs in Goma and other parts of DRC for “peddling falsehoods to tarnish the image of the M23,” adding the organizations serve the interests of their sponsors.
Pressed to explain how the rebel Movement would deal with future attacks by DRC, Abandi answered: “We shall defend ourselves. We cannot allow them to continue attacking us and putting the safety of civilians at risk. We shall be obliged to respond.”
Responding to a question from a journalist on why M23 shot at the UN chopper on October 12, Abandi apologized for the incident but quickly attributed the blame to the international body which “continuously allows FARDC to use their planes for espionage activities and dropping DRC soldiers near M23 territory.”
He said one of the planes that recently violated the M23 territory’s airspace was carrying President Joseph Kabila’s spy chiefs.
Abandi also revealed that FARDC and UN were mixing their emblems on planes, giving the rebel group difficulty in distinguishing the DRC forces from humanitarian elements.