DR Congo rebels declare unilateral ceasefire

Rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. PHOTO | BBC 

M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo have declared a unilateral ceasefire ahead of a second round of peace talks with the government.

The rebels told a news conference in the Ugandan capital Kampala that they hoped the government would follow suit.

An attempt last month to negotiate an end to the nine-month rebellion in the east of the country failed.

Up to 800,000 people have been displaced since the rebels took up arms against the Kinshasa government in May.

"We've been for peace... today we're declaring that we're in a ceasefire," M23 spokesman Francois Rucogoza told the news conference in Kampala.

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

'Rwandan support'

M23 has accused the government of President Joseph Kabila of failing to honour an earlier peace deal to integrate rebels into the army.

The rebels made rapid gains late last year. They seized the main city in the South Kivu region, Goma, in November, but withdrew under international pressure.

Government spokesman Lambert Mende said the government did not have much confidence in the rebel ceasefire, Reuters news agency reports.

"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 the announcement]," he was quoted as saying.

M23 say they want to improve living conditions for the people of eastern DR Congo, but the UN say they are supported by Rwanda, which has been heavily involved in its eastern neighbour since those responsible for the country's genocide fled there en masse in 1994.

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