A leader of the M23 rebel group in eastern Congo said on Tuesday his movement was ending its rebellion after more than a year and-a-half of fighting as the Congolese military seized the last two hills held by the fighters.
The group will seek to resolve its grievances through “political means only,” said M23 President Bertrand Bisimwa in a statement.
He ordered M23 rebel commanders to “prepare troops for the process of disarmament, demobilisation and social reintegration on terms to be agreed upon with the Congolese government.”
Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende declared victory over the rebels, and said that about 100 had been captured by government forces. M23 leader Sultani Makenga and other high-ranking officials within the movement were on the run, he said.
The dramatic developments came after the Congolese military, backed by the U.N. forces, stepped up its offensive against the rebels last month. as peace talks once again stalled. The Congolese military rapidly seized control of more than a half dozen towns in just a matter of days, and Mr. Mende said on Tuesday that they had finally recaptured the last two remaining rebel areas of Chanzu and Runyonyi.
Residents of Goma, a city of 1 million people that the M23 briefly overtook one year ago, expressed cautious optimism that the end of M23 could stabilise the area wracked by a myriad of rebel groups and militias.
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 neighbouring 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.