Democratic Republic of Congo rebels with the March 23 Movement, known as M23, have denied the military’s accusation they carried out a massacre of civilians as a truce between the sides has broken down.
Brigadier General Sylvain Ekenge accused M23 rebels and their Rwandan backers of targeting Congolese civilians.
At a press conference Thursday in Kinshasa, Ekenge said Rwandan defense forces and their M23 accomplices are killing innocent civilians in the territory of Rutshuru, including the recent killings of 50 Congolese citizens. Ekenge said DRC armed forces are obliged to respond to all attacks and will do everything possible to protect the Congolese people.
Rwanda has denied supporting M23 rebels.
The general also accused the rebels of abduction and forced recruitment of youth into their ranks.
M23 rejected the allegations and accused the Congolese army of breaking a week-long truce.
In an interview with VOA Friday, M23 spokesman Lawrence Kanyuka accused the Congolese national army of attacking their positions and called for dialogue.
“The DRC government started a war last night, attack(ed) the position of Kishishi, which means that they breach(ed), actually, the cease-fire (that) was actually put in place on the 25th,” Kanyuka said.
DRC General Ekenge said Congolese forces had upheld the truce.
The cease-fire was agreed upon between DRC President Felix Tshisekedi and Rwandan President Paul Kagame at a November 23 summit in Angola.
The M23 rebels were not part of the deal but there was no fighting reported between the two sides until Thursday’s clashes.
The M23 rebels are ethnic Tutsis who say the government broke a deal to integrate them into the army. They began seizing territory in November 2021 and in October moved toward the city of Goma.
The East African Community has deployed hundreds of troops from Burundi and Kenya as part of a regional force to quell the violence.
Nairobi this week also hosted peace talks with regional leaders and some rebel groups.
M23 representatives were not invited to the talks because Kinshasa said it will not engage with them until they give up occupied territory.