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Celebrations In Eastern DRC As Defeated M23 Pull Out

posted 8 Nov 2013, 07:03 by Sam Mbale

Residents of Goma welcome the decision by M23 rebel group to end its bloody insurgency against the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which for nearly two years has exacerbated humanitarian strife in the country's restive east.

NYIRAGONGO, KIBUMBA, DRC (NOVEMBER 07, 2013) (REUTERS) -  Hundreds of people marched through the streets of the town of Kibumba, eastern DRC, singing praise for the government of president Joseph Kabila, after the M23 rebel group called an end to a 20-month revolt after army soldiers captured its last hilltop strongholds early this week.

Kibumba, some 23 kilometers from Goma, was on the first towns secured by the DR Congo Armed Forces (FARDC), after fighting between M23 rebels and the armyresumed late last month.

M23 has wrought havoc across the eastern region, since it began its insurgency in April 2012.

While many are hopeful that this will be the beginning of the end for years of insecurity, the memories are fresh and fear remains.

"When M23 took over this territory they committed all sorts of atrocities. Women were raped and the men were forced into doing manual labour and were sometimes beaten as well," said one resident, Elizabeth Bwema.

The rebel group's cease fire declaration has raised hopes for peace in a region where millions have died in nearly two decades of violence.

Kibumba's local market is now a buzz of activity, for the first time in years, some say.

"I had given up on my business, because I had no time to sell. Then the M23 were not buying from us, all they wanted was the money we earned from what we sold. They would come at night to take our money, that is why we had stopped selling, and we just did nothing," said Anonciate Gato, a meat vendor.

Since the latest fighting began, hundreds of thousands of people have been internally displaced, while thousands have fled across the border to neighbouringUganda.

M23's defeat appeared to vindicate the United Nations' deployment of a tough newIntervention Brigade this year.

But, with dozens of rebel groups still active, pacifying the mineral-rich region atAfrica's heart remains a daunting task.

The M23 is just the latest manifestation of simmering anger with Kinshasa among ethnic Tutsis in eastern Congo.

The real test will be whether government and rebels can reach a lasting political deal.

M23 took up arms last year when a previous 2009 peace accord with the Tutsi-led CNDP rebels unravelled.