The Democratic Republic of Congo’s M23 rebels are accusing the government of refusing to negotiate at peace talks in Kampala, Uganda.
The talks in Kampala broke off in April and were scheduled to restart this week. M23 said the Congolese government team arrived in the Ugandan capital on Wednesday, only to tell the Ugandan mediator that they will no longer negotiate with M23.
In a letter sent on Thursday to the United Nations special envoy for the Great Lakes Region, the rebels also said the government army and its allies are maneuvering heavily in preparation for an imminent attack.
The letter further accuses the government of arresting more than 50 people in Goma, mostly speakers of the Rwandan language, some of whom it says have been transferred to Kinshasa while others have been taken to unknown locations.
Many of the M23 fighters are Rwandophones. Several reports by U.N. experts have accused Rwanda of supporting M23, charges the Rwandan government denies.
Congo’s government spokesman Lambert Mende said the government has told the mediator there is no question of restarting talks which had already finished when M23 left the negotiating table.
He said what the government is waiting for now is for the mediator to put forward a document, based on both sides’ proposals. He said they will then agree on this document.
Mende rejects the accusation that government forces and their allies are ‘maneuvering heavily’.
He said they are the forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and they cannot be criticized for maneuvering on DRC soil.
Mende said the government was aware of only nine people recently arrested in Goma who had been transferred to Kinshasa. He denied the M23’s claim that most of those recently arrested in Goma on spying charges are Rwandophones.
I tell you it’s false, he said. There are only two Rwandophones among the nine arrested, and several of the others are Lebanese, he added.
U.N. Radio Okapi in Congo said on Thursday that some 20 people had been arrested in Goma recently on suspicion of complicity with M23, according to their relatives.