The M23 rebel group in the Democratic Republic of Congo has called off a 20-month uprising, declaring its surrender. The M23 says it will abandon armed conflict and seek a negotiated solution after being driven from its last two strongholds. Thousands have been killed and more than 800,000 have been displaced since the group of former soldiers took up arms in April 2012. Rwanda has been accused of backing the M23’s operations in the DRC, but its support has reportedly waned in recent weeks. At a summit of African leaders in South Africa, Malawian President Joyce Banda made an appeal for peace.
Malawian President Joyce Banda: “For us to achieve genuine peace and stability in the eastern part of the DRC, the conflicting parties should not only exercise maximum restraint, but also high levels of cooperation and tolerance in order to avoid any further escalation of the war. The women and children of the DRC deserve peace and deserve better. Women are dying. They are being raped. Children are being killed and maimed. Life cannot continue like this. I want to appeal to the leaders of the conflicting parties to give peace a chance.”
Talks between the DRC government and the M23 mediated by neighboring Uganda are expected to resume in the coming weeks. Earlier today, the U.S. special envoy to the Congo and the Great Lakes region, former Senator Russ Feingold, welcomed M23’s surrender as a major first step.
Sen. Russ Feingold: “In a region that has suffered so much, this is certainly a significant positive step in the right direction, that has to be followed by the disarming and demobilization of the other armed groups and a broader political dialogue. Under the auspices of the framework for hope — of hope, led by African nations, this is only the beginning of a legitimate peace and development process, but it is a valuable beginning.”