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Rift Valley Institute

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Congo Rebels Prepare Goma Withdrawal as U.S. Presses Rwanda

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s M23 rebel group said it’s preparing to withdraw from Goma, a day after saying any pull-out would be conditional on President Joseph Kabila’s government meeting a series of demands. The renegade fighters plan to move 20 kilometers (12 miles) outside Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, as requested by regional leaders on Nov. 24, Bishop Jean-Marie Runiga, head of M23’s political wing, said in a phone interview today from the city. M23 military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Vianney Kazarama said in a separate interview that he was withdrawing with some troops to Masisi Territory in North Kivu. …

M23’s indecision about whether to withdraw reflects internal divisions, particularly between its political and military wings, Jason Stearns, who researches armed groups for the Nairobi-based Rift Valley Institute and headed the UN group of experts panel in 2008, said in an interview today in Goma.

The split dates back to the group’s former incarnation as the National Congress for the Defense of the People, or CNDP, which was led by General Laurent Nkunda. In January 2009, Rwanda placed Nkunda under house arrest, allowing Ntaganda to take control of the rebellion and sign the March peace agreement. Nkunda’s supporters within the rebellion, including M23 commander Brigadier-General Sultani Makenga, resented the move, Stearns said. “There are serious tensions between Ntaganda and Makenga,” Stearns said. “Since the beginning, the M23 has suffered from internal contradictions within the military, but also between the military and political wings.”

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