On Tuesday morning, rebels and troops were still clashing despite a ceasefire, brokered by Angola last week month, that was due to start at noon.
“The fighting continues,” said a security official in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who declined to be named.
Lieutenant-Colonel Guillaume Ndjike, the army’s spokesman in North Kivu, said late Monday that the M23 “and their sponsors from the Rwanda Defence Force” had attacked a recently deployed Burundian contingent of an East African regional military force.
The DRC accuses Rwanda of backing the M23 rebels, who have displaced over half a million people and are edging closer to the city of Goma, a trade hub.
Independent UN experts, the United States, as well as several other western states, agree with the assessment, although Rwanda denies it.
The seven-nation East African Community (EAC) decided to create a military force to stabilise eastern Congo last year, with the first troops arriving in Goma in November.
On March 3, the Angolan presidency— which is mediating the conflict— announced a ceasefire for eastern DRC due to take effect at noon on Tuesday (1000 GMT).
On Tuesday, M23 issued a statement declaring a ceasefire to “pave way for the political process to take place.”
“The M23 takes this opportunity to thank all the regional leaders and international partners who have made efforts to listen and understand its problems and for their endless efforts to restore Peace and Security in the Eastern DRC,” the statement signed by M23 Political Spokesman Lawrence Kanyuka reads in part.
The announcement followed several other failed regional peace initiatives.
Both sides accuse the other of triggering a fresh round of clashes.
M23 spokesman Willy Ngoma told AFP on Tuesday that the group was defending itself after the army attacked all of the group’s positions simultaneously.
But in their statement, M23 had warned of war.
“The M23 reiterates its undertaken commitment to peacefully resolve the ongoing conflict in Eastern DRC, but also reserves the full right to defend itself once attacked by the DRC Government Coalition of FARDC, FDLR, NYATURA, APCLS, PARECO, NDC-R, MAI-MAI and mercenaries,” Kanyuka said.
“The M23 will not spare any effort to protect the civilian population and their belongings”.
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