UN condemns M23 rebel offensive on DRC town …as hundreds flee

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has condemned an offensive by M23 rebels in the east of the country that forced 450 people, including women and children, to seek refuge around its base in Kitshanga town.

“The M23 must cease all hostility and withdraw from occupied areas in accordance with the roadmap set out in the Luanda mini-summit,” the mission, known by its acronym, MONUSCO, said on Twitter on Thursday.

The Kitshanga attack is a new offensive by rebels who have seized areas of eastern DRC’s North Kivu province in a rapid onslaught since May that threatened the provincial capital, Goma.

The armed uprising has inflamed regional tensions, with DRC accusing neighbour, Rwanda, of backing and spon­soring the Tutsi-led rebellion. United Nations experts and the European Union have accused Rwanda of backing the M23.

The government of Rwanda has denied any involvement.

Regional leaders brokered an agreement in November under which the rebels were meant to withdraw from recently seized positions by January 15 as part of attempts to end the fighting that has displaced at least 450,000 people.

But a UN internal report said the rebels were flouting the ceasefire.

Two witnesses who fled Kit­shanga and joined the throng of refugees at the MONUSCO base said the rebels had taken control of the town.

A spokesman for the DRC government and the army did not immediately respond to a request for comment. —Reuters

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