Separate leaders of the M23 rebels issued contradictory statements, indicating either that they would withdraw from the city of Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) — or that they will fight to hold the city. M23 took control of Goma, which has a population of one million, on November 20.
An AP report released on November 27 quoted M23 president Jean-Marie Runiga, who said the rebels will not leave the city of Goma, which they seized a week ago. The deadline imposed by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region for the rebels to depart was midnight Monday.
Runiga also said that the rebels still want to negotiate with the central Congolese government and to further discuss the March 23, 2009 peace accord under which M23 became a political party, and its soldiers were integrated into the armed forces of the Democratic Party of the Congo (FARDC). It was from the date of that agreement (March 23) that the M23 movement took its name. A Wikipedia article explains: “The M23 was formed on 4 April 2012 when nearly 300 soldiers, a majority of them former members of the National Congress of the Defence of the People (CNDP), turned against the DRC government, citing poor conditions in the army and the government's unwillingness to implement the 23 March 2009 peace deal.”
The Congolese government ‘s spokesman, Lambert Mende, has accused neighboring Rwanda (Goma is less than a mile from the Rwandan border) of backing the rebels.
According to the AP report, Runiga spoke to reporters at a press conference held in Goma the day after the deadline set for M23’s departure from Goma. Some reporters in attendance deduced that the Rwandan-style dress worn by female ushers at the conference was further evidence of Rwandan support for the M23.
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Photo of M23 soldier looking on at a M23 rally in Goma, Congo: AP Image