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DRC President: M23 Rebels Have Not Withdrawn

FILE - Democratic Republic of Congo, Felix Tshisekedi speaks during a joint press conference with Kenyan President William Ruto (not seen), at the Palace of the Nation in Kinshasa on Nov. 21, 2022.

President Felix Tshisekedi on Tuesday said the M23 rebel group had not fully withdrawn from areas it seized in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), accusing the militia of faking an agreed pullback of its forces.

Regional leaders brokered an agreement in November under which the Tutsi-led group was meant to withdraw from recently seized positions by Jan. 15 as part of efforts to end a conflict that has displaced at least 450,000 people and sparked a diplomatic crisis between the DRC and neighboring Rwanda.

"Despite the international pressure, the group is still there," Tshisekedi said during a panel session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

"They pretend to move, they act like they are moving, but they're not. They're simply moving around, redeploying elsewhere, and they stay in the towns that they have captured," he said.

His comments were the most outspoken from DRC authorities so far on how they view the implementation of the peace deal.

"President Tshisekedi has only this to say. It is the government that does not respect the ceasefire, it also continues to arm armed groups," said Lawrence Kanyaka, a spokesman for the M23.

Earlier in January, an internal United Nations intelligence report said it was not possible to confirm the M23's purported withdrawal from some areas due to continued signs of troop movement, and its analysis indicated the group had seized new territory elsewhere.

Tshisekedi again accused Rwanda of fueling the conflict by supporting the rebels — an accusation leveled also by Western powers and U.N. experts. Rwanda firmly denies this.

Several civil society organizations have called for a demonstration on Wednesday in the provincial capital, Goma, to protest delays implementing the M23 withdrawal, although the city authorities have not authorized the march.