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UN Flags M23 Noncompliance


FILE: Soldiers being deployed to reinforce security in the area terrorized by the M23 rebels in DRC. Taken December 29, 2022

United Nations intelligence analysts have spotted suspected movements by M23 rebels in parts of eastern Congo from which they were meant to have withdrawn and signs the armed group has seized ground in other areas, internal U.N. documents showed on Thursday.

"Their total withdrawal from the area has not yet been confirmed," wrote the Joint Mission Analysis Centre (JMAC), a U.N. intelligence unit, in a confidential report covering the period from Dec. 26 to Jan. 3, and seen by Reuters.

"Suspected M23 movements were still sighted in the area," it added.

The findings show there is continued uncertainty about both the exact status of the conflict in North Kivu province and the situation on the ground in the Kibumba area, which the rebels were meant to have left as of Dec. 23 as part of a ceasefire brokered by East African regional leaders.

The report also highlights examples of M23 violently seizing new territory elsewhere even after they participated in the ceremony to hand over Kibumba to East African Community (EAC) forces in what they called a goodwill gesture under the ceasefire.

"Several clashes involving M23 were reported during the week, resulting in M23 taking control of further areas, notably threatening Kitchanga, Mweso, Sake, Kilorirwe, Mushaki and Nyamilima, and raising serious PoC (Protection of Civilian) concerns," the report stated.

Earlier this week, a spokesperson for the EAC force told Reuters the withdrawal had been effective, but said "a few administrative non-combatant elements from M23 on the outskirts of Kibumba are in the final phase of withdrawal."

The M23 was also meant to have withdrawn from the strategic military town of Rumangabo by this Thursday, but on Wednesday the EAC postponed a planned handover ceremony, saying it was still assessing the security situation.

On Wednesday, the M23 denied reports of its failure to leave Kibumba, saying it had withdrawn from its positions there as of Dec. 23 and was committed to the agreement reached by regional leaders in November that was meant to see the M23 withdraw from recently seized positions and allow thousands of displaced people to return to their homes.

Lawrence Mukanya, the political spokesperson for the rebel M23 group disputes allegations of non-compliance and emphasizes on their withdrawal from the town of Rumangabo on Thursday.

“The M23 has already withdrawn from the town of Kibumba and now it has been done at the military camp in Rumangabo,” said Mukanya.

“The M23 is fully committed and will lend its support to regional efforts focused on finding peace in the DRC,” added the M23 spokesperson.

Last Friday, presidential spokesperson Tina Salama told Reuters President Felix Tshisekedi remained committed to the ceasefire agreement.

"We all know they (the M23) have not completely withdrawn," she said, adding that rebels technically had until Jan. 15 for the full withdrawal. "There will be a reassessment at that time."