A leader of the M23 rebel group in eastern Congo has said his movement is ending its rebellion after more than a year and a half of fighting the Congolese government.
The group will seek to resolve its grievances through “political means only”, said M23 president Bertrand Bisimwa in a statement.
Bisimwa ordered M23 rebel commanders to “prepare troops for the process of disarmament, demobilization and social reintegration on terms to be agreed upon with the government”.
Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende declared victory over the rebels, and said about 100 had been captured by government forces. M23 leader Sultani Makenga and other high-ranking officials within the movement are now on the run, he said.
The developments come after the Congolese military, backed by United Nations forces, stepped up its offensive against the rebels last month as peace talks stalled. The Congolese military seized control of towns in a matter of days and Mende said they had now finally recaptured the last two remaining rebel areas of Chanzu and Runyonyi.
Analysts have cautioned that M23 is only the latest reincarnation of discontent among ethnic Tutsis in eastern Congo, and warned that other groups could emerge from its demise.
M23 is widely believed to have received military and financial support from the government of neighboring Rwanda, whose president is also an ethnic Tutsi. Rwanda denies having aided the rebels despite evidence laid out in a report by a United Nations group of experts.
US envoy to Congo Russ Feingold welcomed the M23 announcement. He said: “Despite the bumps in the road, this is an important step in the right direction. Everybody has to keep their commitments.”
Feingold said rebels should be protected once they disarm so that they are not left vulnerable to other armed groups. But those guilty of “serious crimes” should not get amnesty, he added.