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DR Congo: M23 rebels absent as peace talks with rebel groups continue in Nairobi

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Democratic Republic Of Congo

Peace talks with local militias operating in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo DRC continued on Monday in Nairobi but without representatives of the M23 rebels.

The rebel group had been present on the first day of talks on Saturday, but the Congolese delegation demanded and obtained their expulsion after news of renewed fighting in the Rutshuru territory eastern DRC.

"These clashes resumed this afternoon. We are in a position of self-defense. We are defending ourselves so as not to give up a single meter of territory to the invaders," Lieutenant-Colonel Muhindo Lwanzo, chief of staff of the military administrator of the Rutshuru territory (North Kivu, east), told AFP.

But in an official statement, the M23 accused the Congolese military of provoking Saturday afternoon's clash.

The Nairobi consultations comes on the backheel of a mini peace summit which brought together several Heads of States from the East African Community (EAC) last week.

The second day of work on Sunday, April 24, was devoted to compiling the terms of reference of each armed group. Each of their representatives took the floor to explain the reasons that led them to take up arms.

According to Giscard Kusema, deputy director of Congolese presidential communications and one of the experts participating in the consultations in Nairobi, the reasons given were not political: "These claims are more of an identity and self-defense nature, and all of them say they are ready to advance the process desired by the President of the Republic, Félix Tshisekedi Tshilombo, whom they recognize as their president".

Representatives of seven armed groups, mainly from South Kivu, are now participating in the talks. The UN with a peace mission in the embattled region called MONUSCO drummed up support for the consultations.

Eight of its peacekeepers and observers died in March when one of its helicopters crashed. The M23 accused of downing the helicopter has since denied the allegation.

The armed group was defeated in 2013 by the DRC's armed forces but reappeared late last year blaming the Kinshasa authorities for failing to meet commitments to demobilize its fighters.

The eastern part of the DRC has been troubled for decades by multiple militia groups. In particular rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and those of the March 23 Movement (M23), have been common nightmare for countries in the region.

Since April 10, no clashes had been reported until the latest which broke out on Saturday, hours after delegates from President Felix Tshisekedi opened consultations with the armed groups in Nairobi.

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