The M23, a DR Congo rebel group accused of unleashing fresh unrest in the country's east, said it has changed the name of its armed wing and is preparing to fend off expected new attacks by the army.
"The M23 army... is now named the Congolese Revolutionary Army (ARC)," the group's leader Jean-Marie Runiga said in a statement issued after a press conference Saturday.
The group, which has been accused by rights groups of raping women and girls and carrying out summary executions as it battles the regular army, was formed in May by former fighters in an ethnic Tutsi rebel group that was integrated into the military under a 2009 peace deal whose terms the mutineers claim were never fully implemented.
Runiga accused the army of collaborating with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a rebel group formed by ethnic Hutus who were soldiers in the Rwandan army before being forced out after the country's 1994 genocide.
The rebels pledged to fend off what they said were imminent attacks from their former colleagues in the regular army.
"We are watching the reinforcement of the FARDC (military) positions on the front line, where the FDLR and the FARDC are preparing what they call a final assault on out positions," said Runiga.
The United Nations has accused Rwanda and Uganda of backing the rebels, a charge both countries deny. Rwanda has in turn accused DR Congo of backing the FDLR -- some of whose members are wanted in Rwanda in connection with the genocide, which killed 800,000 people, mostly Tutsis.
DR Congo's army has itself accused the M23 of collaborating with the FDLR in the east, a chronically unstable region that is home to numerous armed groups with murky allegiances and motives.
Originally named M23 for the March 23, 2009 peace deal, the group's rebaptism follows peace talks mediated by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni that the rebels have rejected, calling instead for direct talks with the DR Congo government.
The mediation was aimed at "undermining the M23's vigilance by making it believe in a possible negotiation, while Kinshasa is reorganising its army, which has been defeated by the M23, and incorporating new units" from local and foreign armed groups, Runiga said.© ANP/AFP