M23's announcement it's not bound by ceasefire agreement comes following clashes between its fighters and government soldiers troops in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo's North Kivu province.

DRC accuses neighbouring Rwanda of backing the M23 rebels, a charge the small central African country always denies.
DRC accuses neighbouring Rwanda of backing the M23 rebels, a charge the small central African country always denies. (Reuters)

Fresh clashes between M23 rebels and soldiers have erupted in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), officials said, as the militia declared that it was not bound by a ceasefire agreement DRC reached with Rwanda. 

M23 spokesperson Willy Ngoma told the AFP news agency that the deal brokered between the DRC and Rwandan presidents in Angola on Wednesday was irrelevant.

"We are Congolese, not Rwandan," he said. "If there's a ceasefire, it can only be between us and the Congolese government".

Talks between DRC leader Felix Tshisekedi and Rwanda's Paul Kagame in Angola on Wednesday initially raised the prospect of a ceasefire between the M23 and the DRC government.

Violence between Tutsi rebels and the DRC's army has flared in recent weeks.

The DRC has repeatedly accused neighbouring Rwanda of backing the M23, a charge the small central African country has always denied.

Fighting in North Kivu province

The M23's announcement on Thursday that it is not bound by the ceasefire, came after clashes between its fighters and DRC troops broke out in Rutshuru territory in the country's eastern North Kivu province in the morning.

A DRC army commander accused the rebels of attacking military positions in the area in violation of the ceasefire. However, the M23 denied the claim and accused the army of starting hostilities.

The M23 –– or "March 23 Movement" –– first leapt to prominence when it briefly captured the eastern DRC city of Goma in 2012 before it was driven out in a joint UN-DRC offensive.

After lying mostly dormant for years, the group resumed fighting last November after accusing the government of failing to honour an agreement to incorporate its fighters into the army, among other issues.

Last month, M23 fighters captured the strategic town of Bunagana on the DRC-Ugandan border.

DRC, Rwanda ties

M23 clashes have plunged relations between the DRC and Rwanda to their lowest point in years.

The relationship between the two countries had already long been strained since the mass arrival in the eastern DRC of Rwandan Hutus accused of slaughtering Tutsis during the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

Both countries have in recent weeks accused the other of carrying out cross-border shelling, triggering international appeals for calm.

Source: AFP