GOMA, DR Congo, Jan. 6 (Xinhua) — Rebels of the March 23 Movement (M23) on Friday officially handed over the Rumangabo military base they seized in the northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in October, to the military force of East African Community (EAC).
The handover ceremony of this military base, about 40 km from the city of Goma, the capital of the province of North Kivu, took place in the presence of officials from the command of the EAC regional force, the joint verification mechanisms of the Great Lakes region and the authorities of the M23 rebellion.
For Emmanuel Kaputa, the deputy commander of the EAC regional force, this ceremony showcases the continuity of a process already in motion preceded by the withdrawal of the rebels from the town of Kibumba in December 2022. On Dec. 23, 2022, the rebel group withdrew from Kibumba, about 20 km from Goma, as a “goodwill gesture done in the name of peace.”
“We welcome this commitment by the authorities of the M23 rebellion to respect their commitments. We must accelerate this process in other areas to give the chance for lasting peace and allow our population to find their homes peacefully,” said Emmanuel Kaputa.
John Imani Nzenze, an M23 commander, said their withdrawal from the Rumangabo military base and the handing over to the EAC is further proof that total peace remains the priority for M23.
The M23 commander warned the DRC government of the disrespect of its commitment to engage in a direct dialogue with the M23.
In his speech, the rebellion representative vigorously castigated the attitude of the DRC government on the military actions against the M23 positions across the territory of Rutshuru.
“We warn the government that we are more than ready to stop the killings and its attacks on our positions and our people. We have demonstrated our goodwill enough, but in the face of the facts that we continue to observe from the government, we are not going to sit with our hands crossed,” warned the commander.
It was on Oct. 24 last year that M23 rebels took control of the Rumangabo military base, the largest in the North Kivu province.
Since April 2022, the EAC has carried out a two-track approach that includes facilitating inter-Congolese dialogue and deploying a regional force in the eastern DRC to deal with armed groups who refuse to join the dialogue process.
Since last month, the M23 rebels have taken control of several territories northeast of Goma after intense fighting with the Congolese army, which has forced thousands of civilians to seek refuge.