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M23 rebel group soldiers on patrol. PHOTO: Junior D.Kannah /AFP/Getty Images)

M23's new name

Asumpta Lattus
October 22, 2012

The head of the Congolese M23 rebel group has announced that it has been renamed the 'Congolese Revolutionary Army.' The group has vowed to resume fighting if the government rejects negotiations.


Speaking to DW correspondent John Kanyunyu in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the president of Congo's M23 rebel group, Bishop Jean-Marie Runiga, said the group changed its name and promoted its leader, Colonel Sultan Makenga, to the rank of general because of the growing number of troops under his command.

Runiga also said the group's ultimate goal wasn't fighting, but having peaceful negotiations on matters that affect Congolese society.

"We want all stakeholders such as lawmakers, civil society groups, M23, to sit down  together with Congolese people and talk over issues affecting the country," he said.

While stressing the need to talk about peace, he also mentioned that "they are some crucial issues such as problems that are related to the last presidential elections and the bad leadership in the Congo that we need to talk about."

Accusations and counter-accusations

M23 has been accused of raping women and girls and executing a number of  boys who didn't want to take part in the armed group's killings in eastern DRC.

Famillies fleeing renewed fighting in eastern DRC. Photo: REUTERS/James Akena
Fighting in eastern DRC has displaced hundreds of thousandsImage: Reuters

M23, the group's old name, is derived from the date on which it was founded, March 23, 2009, by an ethnic Tutsi rebel group that deserted the Congolese army. The Tutsi rebels had been integrated into the Congolese army under a 2009 peace deal. However, the rebels say promises they were given were not kept.

Rights groups and the United Nations have repeatedly accused Rwanda and Uganda of supporting the M23 rebels, a charge which both countries deny. Rwanda accuses the DRC of backing the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDRL),  a Rwandan Hutu rebel group, which allegedly took part in the country's 1994 genocide in which more than 800,000 people were killed, most of whom were Tutsis.

"hiding internal problems"

Asked about the recently leaked UN panel of experts' report that accused Rwanda and Uganda of supporting the M23, Runiga told DW  "the report is wrong."

A close up photo of President Yoweri Museveni (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Critics say Uganda's president Yoweri Museveni is backing M23 rebelsImage: AP

"As a matter of fact, we disagree with the UN group of experts' report. It is just Kabila's strategy of hiding his internal problems," he added.

Runiga said DRC President Joseph Kabila was using the UN to condemn Rwanda and Uganda in an effort to avoid talks between the government and the rebels.

"He wants to show that Congolese problems come from outside. He is trying to hide internal problems," Runiga added.

However, experts say Rwanda and Uganda have provided the group with direct military support, facilitated recruitment and transferred weapons and ammunition and encouraged Congolese soldiers to join the insurgency. 

Asked whether Uganda's president Yoweri Kaguta Museveni was still the right person to mediate in the conflict,  Runiga said "if it was not for Museven's call for talks with Congolese government, M23 would by now have taken Goma and Bukavu Town."

Fighting in eastern DRC has forced more than a half million of civilians to flee their homes.

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