Congo M23 rebels say they are withdrawing from Goma


The head of the M23 rebel military forces, Brigadier-General Sultani Makenga (R), sits on November 25, 2012 in the yard of a military residence in Goma in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Over half a million people have been displaced in eastern Congo since the outbreak of the M23 rebellion.



The Democratic Republic of Congo's M23 rebels said on Wednesday that they would withdraw from Goma, giving into the demands of regional leaders and the African Union, according to CNN.

Officers and soldiers from the rebel group told CNN they would pull their forces back to 12 miles north of Goma, although there were no immediate signs of movement.

Gen. Sultani Makenga, the military chief of M23, said they intend to abide by the ultimated issued by regional leaders that called for their withdrawal from Goma by Friday, according to the Associated Press. "My soldiers began to retreat from Masisi yesterday. We will go via Goma and then after that we will retreat to 20 kilometers (12 miles) past Goma toward Rutshuru," he said.

A UN Group of Experts report found that M23 is a Rwandan proxy fighting to control mines in the eastern Congo, according to the AP. The conflict has displaced 140,000 civilians, according to the UN.

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Last week, the rebels captured several towns from government troops. If they do pull out, they would be giving up the gains they made last week, but Reuters noted that there is no indication they will end their eight-month long insurgency.

The rebels agreed to the withdrawal after Ugandan military chief Aronda Nyakayirima met with Makenga, Reuters reported. "We want peace," Makenga told Reuters. "We're prepared for the return of government troops, they're going to come ... But if Kabila's troops harass the people we're prepared to come back in, we're just around the corner."

CNN said the group would also leave a 100-strong contingent at the city's airport, in addition to leaving their administration in Goma.

"There were indications tonight that possibly the M23 elements were starting to withdraw," said UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous late on Tuesday, according to CNN. "There were indications, but of course that was already late the evening, and that will have to be confirmed tomorrow."

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