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DRC Rebels Replace Leader

  • VOA News

M23 military leader General Sultani Makenga attends a press conference in Bunagana in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo Jan. 3, 2013.

M23 military leader General Sultani Makenga attends a press conference in Bunagana in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo Jan. 3, 2013.

Congolese rebel group M23 has dismissed its political leader, Jean-Marie Runiga, accusing him of "high treason."

An M23 spokesman said Thursday that the group's military chief, General Sultani Makenga, has assumed leadership of the group.

Runiga confirmed his dismissal in a brief interview Thursday with VOA.

He said, "I have no comments to make even if I have been dismissed. My official spokesperson will detail the reasons why."

M23 rebel leader Bishop Jean Marie Runiga, addressing press conference, Bunagana, Congo, Jan. 3, 2013.

M23 rebel leader Bishop Jean Marie Runiga, addressing press conference, Bunagana, Congo, Jan. 3, 2013.

M23's military command released a statement late Wednesday, saying chairman Runiga was unable to carry out the group's political aims.

It said Runiga also allowed Bosco Ntaganda, a former Congolese general, to influence high-level decisions. Ntaganda is wanted by the International Criminal Court for recruiting and using child soldiers.

M23's political spokesman Bertrand Bisimwa said Runiga may have fled to join Ntaganda.

At least eight people died in fighting late Sunday between what sources said were rebels loyal to Makenga and supporters of another leader.

The statement late Wednesday says the rebels want to continue peace efforts amid "positive signals" from the national and international community. They said they want to ensure a "peaceful and sustainable resolution" to unrest in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The country has endured armed conflicts for more than two decades, including the latest eruption of violence last April. The M23 rebels captured several cities in November, demanding the government fully implement a 2009 peace deal designed to integrate rebels into the Congolese army.

Leaders from Africa's Great Lakes region are set to meet in Kampala March 15 to continue talks with M23. Members from 11 countries signed a peace deal Sunday aimed at ending decades of conflict in the mineral-rich eastern portion of the DRC.

The United Nations has imposed sanctions against M23 as a group, as well as individual measures against both Runiga and Makenga.

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