Local sources from Kibumba on Monday, reported that the withdrawal of the M23 rebels from Kibumba, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is still "not effective.
A Tutsi rebellion defeated in 2013, the M23 ("March 23 Movement") has seized a large portion of the territory north of Goma, capital of North Kivu province, in recent months. The most advanced position is in Kibumba (20 km from Goma).
On December 23, the rebels and their military leaders met with the commanders of the EAC (East African Community) regional force, with a view to withdrawing from the Kibumba groupement (group of villages).
The next day, the Congolese army described this announcement of disengagement as a "decoy. Since then, no effective with drawal has been reported.
"Here in the Kibumba and Buhumba grouping, the M23 are still with us," as are the soldiers of the East African Force, a resident told journalists, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons.
The majority of the population has fled, while other inhabitants are returning, before leaving again, he explained.
On their return to Goma on Monday evening, two farmers who had been in Kibumba-centre since Saturday also told AFP that "the M23 are still there", adding that they had even built a center for their medical care. One of the two men said he had a brief exchange with the rebels: "They asked me why I was leaving Kibumba.
Boniface Kagumyo, mayor of Kibumba commune, who is currently living in an IDP camp near Goma, said he left his jurisdiction after an exchange with the regional force commanders.
"The EAC told us to wait, that maybe they (the M23) will withdraw," but so far "the M23 are still in the area, their withdrawal has not been effective," he said.
With the DRC accusing Rwanda of actively supporting the M23 and fighting alongside the group, relations between the two neighbors have been poor.
Diplomatic initiatives have been launched to try to resolve the crisis, including the ongoing deployment of the East African Regional Force, led by Kenya.