The head of the Congolese state Army, Gen. Francois Olenga, meanwhile, used fighting words during a press conference on Thursday in Minova. “I am going to ask the government for permission to wage war,” he said. “The negotiations do not get us anywhere, we are now going to declare war for peace.”
Earlier, the M23 had been seen transporting military hardware to their headquarters. The UN has also said they have seen signs of a retreat. M23 sources said that a parade would be held in Goma on Friday to mark the withdrawal. Some residents in Goma, however, have said that the rebels have only begun wearing police uniforms, possibly suggesting a more long-term presence.
If the M23 do withdraw, it will mark the end of more than a weeklong occupancy of Goma. The M23, named after a peace agreement in March 23, 2009, between leaders of a former rebel group, the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), started their insurgency in April. The rebel leaders say the government did not stick to the agreements made and claim they are fighting against the corruption and bad governance of the Congolese government.
Residents of Goma say they believe the driving force behind the recent rebellion is Rwanda, which has long desired the resource-rich state of Kivu. The UN has made the same allegations, saying that the government in Kigali is supporting M23 financially and logistically. There have been unconfirmed sightings of Rwanda Defense Forces assisting M23 units on the ground.