DAKAR, Senegal -- M23 rebels accused a government coalition in Congo on Wednesday of targeted killings and breaching a cease-fire agreed to last month, jeopardizing prospects for peace in the country's conflict-riddled east.
M23 alleges the coalition attacked its positions in North Kivu province and was killing civilians, destroying houses and slaughtering cows, Lawrence Kanyuka, the rebel group's political spokesperson, said.
The rebels warned in a statement that they “will not stand by” while civilians are killed and called on the international community to take concrete action and help thousands of people displaced by the violence in eastern Congo.
The statement came a day after M23 said it was ready to disengage and withdraw from areas under its control. Kanyuka told The Associated Press by phone Wednesday that the group remained open to dialogue despite its accusations and had no cease-fire preconditions other than the government stopping to attack.
"We want peace and I think we do it by dialogue,” he said.
Violence in North Kivu has soared since M23 resurfaced in November 2021 after being largely dormant for nearly a decade. Hundreds of people have died and tens of thousands displaced.
The situation worsened in recent weeks as the group seized more territory, bringing the rebels within 20 kilometers (12 miles) of Goma, the regional capital, and pushing into Masisi territory to the west.
Attempts to mitigate the tensions at a summit in Angola last month yielded little. Regional leaders warned that if M23 did not respect the cease-fire and relinquish control of the towns it held, an East African regional force would make them do so.
A contingent of more than 900 Kenyan troops already has deployed to eastern Congo as part of the regional force agreed to in June. South Sudan has said it planned to send 750 personnel to participate in the regional force.
The rebels and the government exchanged blame in recent days for alleged civilian massacres.
Earlier this week, the government accused M23 of killing 270 people during an attack in Kishishe, a village located about 70 kilometers (43 miles) from Goma.
The rebel group has triggered a security and humanitarian crisis that could have regional implications, the International Crisis Group said in a report.
“The possible ramifications of the current violence go beyond North Kivu and risk pulling several regional countries into prolonged proxy killings,” the report stated.