M23 Rebels Commander, General Sultani Makenga, and President, Bertrand Bisimwa, met the press on September 8, 2013 at their headquarter in the border town of Bunagana. During the press briefing, the two leaders said that they are ready to disarm their troops under two conditions: the resolution of the FDLR problem and the return of Tutsi Congolese refugees.
General Makenga and Bertrand Bisimwa met the press before sending a delegation of eight people to Kampala to resume negotiations with the DRC Government. These negotiations must be concluded within two weeks, based on the resolutions adopted by the summit of the Heads of State of member countries of the ICGLR, held in Kampala on September 5, 2013.
However, the two M23 rebels leaders added that these two conditions are not pre-conditions, and the M23 rebels are ready to disarm in the nearest future.
Regarding the recent setbacks on the battleground, the M23 leaders said that these were rather part of a strategic withdrawal, than defeats. They argued that the objective of the strategic withdrawal was, first, to facilitate the commission of inquiry to do its job of determining the origin of the bombs that fell in the cities of Goma and Gisenyi during the recent clashes between the FARDC and the M23 rebel, and second, to promote peace.
Ragarding their strategy for negotiation in Kampala, the M23 rebels leaders said that they do not seek reintegration within the FARDC , but a “Marshall Plan” for Eastern DRC, with the funding to reconstruct the devastated region coming from local resources.
M23 Rebels have been under intense diplomatic, political, and military pressure since they resumed combats in August 2013. According to several sources within M23 rebels, they suffered massive troops casualties and loss of military equipment, from unrelenting bombings by the UN Intervention Brigade and ground assaults by FARDC. According to the sources, the morale is very low, and, in recent days, several troops have deserted. Also, Rwandan military leaders, under international pressure, have withdrawn some of the Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF) special forces that formed the backbone of M23 rebels combatting forces.
“There basically was one option: surrender. The ICGLR summit offered a way out and has helped to save the face,” a M23 rebel unit commander told AfroAmerica Network.
On Saturday September 7, 2013, the UN Special Envoy, Ms. Robinson visited Kigali, Rwanda. During her meetings with the press, she reiterated the need for M23 rebels to disarm, the criminals within M23 rebels to be prosecuted, and her preference for a “political solution” to the crisis in Eastern DRC.
On her trip, that took her to Uganda and Rwanda, after the DRC, she is accompanied by the Special Representative of the African Union, Boubacar Diarra, the US Special Envoy to the Great Lakes region, Russ Feingold and the Principal Coordinator of the European Union for the Great Lakes Region, Koen Vervaeke.
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