M23 rebels: All we are saying is 'give peace a chance'


Peacekeepers from the MONUSCO mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo patrol the town of Kiwanja, a town controlled by the M23 rebels, some 40 miles north of Goma, on August 4, 2013.


Stephanie Aglietti

The Democratic Republic of Congo's M23 rebels declared a unilateral ceasefire on Friday after days of heavy fighting.

The rebel group, active in the DRC's North Kivu province, said that it was willing to "give peace a chance."

The militant group said that it would allow for an investigation into shelling in civilian neighborhoods in Kivu's capital, Goma. It is unclear where the shelling originated, but Congo believes that shells that killed civilians came from Rwanda.

M23 had previously declared a ceasefire in May during a visit by the United Nations' Secretary-General, but fighting has resumed along the Rwanda border since.

The Tutsi-dominated March 23 Movement (M23) was formed in 2012 and stands accused of various atrocities during the conflict with the Congolese government.

It is believed that Rwanda finances and provides support for the rebels, charges the country has steadfastly denied.

More from GlobalPost: M23 rebels declare truce for UN Secretary General visit to DRC

The rebels had captured the capital of North Kivu last year but were pushed out by government forces.

Though UN peacekeepers have been stationed in the region to protect civilians, this month saw intensified fighting with the arrival of a UN “intervention brigade” of 3,000 soldiers from Tanzania, Malawi and South Africa, which was tasked with fighting the rebels.

The rebel ceasefire may be due to the new offensive by UN and Congolese government troops.

The alliance has been pounding rebel positions this week.

The Associated Press reported that M23 president Bertrand Bisimwa said that troops had already begun retreating from positions just north of Goma.

More from GlobalPost: Rwanda accuses Congo of shelling as tensions mount