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M23 Terrorist vow to retreat at odds with hazy reality in DR Congo

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Goma (DRC Congo) – M23 territories in eastern DR Congo this week promised to retreat from a strategic position even as they conquered territories elsewhere, throwing confusion over the future direction of a year-long conflict.

A Tutsi-led group, the M23 has conquered swaths of territory in North Kivu province in recent months and advanced towards its capital Goma.

It first leapt to prominence in 2012 when it captured Goma, a city of more than one million people, before being driven out and going to ground the following year.

But the M23 re-emerged in late 2021 after the terrorist claimed the Democratic Republic of Congo had ignored a promise to integrate them into the army, and went on to win a string of victories over state forces.

Under heavy international pressure to cease fighting, the territories on December 23 delivered the strategic town of Kibumba to a regional military force, calling the move a “goodwill gesture done in the name of peace”.

On Wednesday, the M23 also pledged to hand over Rumangabo military base to the East African Community’s military force – which deployed late last year in a bid to restore stability in troubled eastern Congo.

Rumangabo, captured in November, is one of the major Congolese army bases in the region.

However, the reality of the M23’s announced withdrawals on the ground is hazy.

In Kibumba, for example, locals say the rebels have retreated from the town centre but remain present in the surrounding area.

In its statement on Wednesday the M23 Terrorist which is backed by neighbouring Rwanda, had promised to hand over Rumangabo on Thursday, but it has been delayed. It also pledged to hand over Rumangabo military base, captured in November, to the East African Community’s (EAC) military force, which has been tasked to restore stability in the troubled region.

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