The Democratic Republic of Congo's M23 rebels said they're preparing to withdraw from Goma as the US pressed Rwanda's government to help end the crisis in eastern Congo.
The renegade fighters plan to move 20 kilometres outside Goma as requested by regional leaders on November 24, Bishop Jean-Marie Runiga, head of M23's political wing, said in a phone interview today from Goma. Once they've withdrawn, the rebels want direct talks with President Joseph Kabila that include members of the Congolese opposition and civil society, he said.
"The conditions remain the same," Runiga said. "We will withdraw and then we will see if the government is serious."
M23, which captured Goma a week ago, said yesterday its forces would only retreat once the government meets conditions including dissolving Congo's electoral commission and releasing political prisoners. The renegade group is made up of soldiers who mutinied in April and headed by General Bosco Ntaganda, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. A United Nations group of experts monitoring Congo's arms embargo has accused Rwanda and Uganda of backing the insurgents, allegations both governments deny.
US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Johnnie Carson met Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo two days ago and delivered a "very strong message" that the country use its influence to end the conflict in eastern Congo, the State Department said yesterday.
"We also expressed concerns in those meetings about any Rwandan support for M23," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in an e-mailed briefing. "Our understanding is that we are also continuing to ask Rwanda to be active in this, but it is a slog."