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Rift Valley Institute

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Congo Halts Offensive Against M23 for Peace Talks

KAMPALA, Uganda—Congo's United Nations-backed troops have halted an offensive against the rebel group known as M23, in a step toward a peace deal that aims to end fighting and revive commerce in the mineral-rich African nation…

The move comes as regional leaders look for ways to end a 20-month rebellion spearheaded by M23 and to stabilize the conflict-torn Democratic Republic of Congo…

Currently M23 claims to be fighting for the rights of the minority Tutsi ethnic group. It is seeking a guarantee of safety for Tutsis in eastern Congo, as well as the restoration and implementation of the 2009 integration deal and an amnesty for M23 members.

On Friday, a Congolese delegation joined rebel negotiators in the Ugandan capital of Kampala for the latest round of talks, after nearly a year of negotiations. "There can be no military solution to the problems in eastern DRC," Col. Ankunda told reporters…

The pause in fighting Thursday night came after a weeklong offensive, in which Congolese troops overran key rebel strongholds and raised hopes of a government victory. But analysts and aid groups on the ground say that the defeat of M23 wouldn't necessarily end Congo's bloody conflict, as many other armed groups continue to roam, rape and pillage….

The conflict with M23 has renewed simmering tensions in the region that have threatened to pull other countries into the conflict. U.N. investigators in a number of reports have accused Uganda and Rwanda of creating and backing M23. The governments in Kampala and the Rwandan capital of Kigali both deny the accusations.

The rebel fighters lost their last remaining stronghold town of Bunagana early this week, depriving them of control of a key mineral trade route, which the group has long relied on to finance their insurgency. The rebels still occupy strategic hills along the Rwandan border, and continue to pose a threat if a peace deal isn't signed, according to Jason Stearns, a Congolese analyst based in Nairobi with Rift Valley Institute.

"It is too soon, to declare an end to the M23," he said.

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