Congo rebels declare ceasefire before peace talks

Tue Jan 8, 2013 10:58am EST
 

By Elias Biryabarema

KAMPALA (Reuters) - Congolese rebels declared a unilateral ceasefire on Tuesday ahead of a second round of peace talks with the government, boosting hopes for a negotiated end to their nine-month-old revolt.

The announcement marked a relaxation of the M23 rebels' demand last week that the Democratic Republic of Congo government also agree to a truce before troubled negotiations resume.

"We've been for peace ... Today we're declaring that we're in a ceasefire," Francois Rucogoza, the rebels' executive secretary told journalists in the Ugandan capital Kampala, speaking in French through a translator.

"Even if the government refuses to sign a ceasefire agreement we'll continue with the negotiations," he added.

Foreign powers fear the conflict could trigger another regional war in a borderlands zone that has suffered nearly two decades of turmoil.

Successive cross-border conflicts have killed and uprooted millions in the Congo basin since the colonial era, driven by political and ethnic divisions and competition for vast mineral resources.

The Congolese government said it did not have much confidence in the rebel ceasefire.

"We don't think we can see this as a concession from people who don't tend to do what they say. We'll wait and see ... We want to know why (they've made this announcement)," government spokesman Lambert Mende said.   Continued...

 
The M23 insurgent rebels' executive secretary Francois Rucogoza speaks during a news conference in Uganda's capital Kampala January 8, 2013. Congolese rebels declared a unilateral ceasefire on Tuesday ahead of a second round of peace talks with the government, boosting hopes for a negotiated end to their nine-month-old revolt. REUTERS/James Akena