Rebels close in on DR Congo city, November 19

A rebel group believed to be backed by Rwanda has advanced to within two miles of Goma, a crucial provincial capital in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, marking the first time that rebels have come this close since 2008.

DR Congolese army spokesman Colonel Olivier Hamuli said the fighting has been going on since 6am on Sunday and the front line has moved to just a few miles outside the city.

After more than nine hours of violent clashes, the two sides took a break just after 3pm, with M23 rebels establishing a checkpoint just 100 metres away from one held by the military in the village of Munigi, exactly 1.8 miles outside the Goma city line.

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  • Kinshasa rejects rebels peace talks

    Reuters, By Jonny Hogg, November 19

    KINSHASA (Reuters) – The Democratic Republic of Congo government on Monday dismissed a demand from rebels in the country’s east for truce talks, saying that the insurgent force pushing towards the city of Goma was merely a tool of neighbouring Rwanda.

    The rejection meant that the worst fighting in the area in four years was only likely to intensify, bringing with it a new humanitarian crisis as refugees fled the city.

    The M23 rebels had halted their advance about 5 km from Goma on Monday and gave the government 24 hours to start talks or face a new onslaught. They say that Kinshasa broke the terms of a 2009 peace agreement that integrated them into the army as a solution to an earlier rebellion.

    A government spokesman said it was not interested in rebel proposals or ultimatums.

    “M23 is defined by the government as a fiction created by Rwanda to hide their criminal activities against the DRC,” spokesman Lambert Mende said. “It is an ultimatum from a fictitious group that has no real value to us.”

    United Nations experts back the government contention that Rwanda, which has intervened in Congo repeatedly over the past 18 years, is behind the M23 revolt. Rwanda denies involvement.

    More at the link

  • Goma falls to Congo rebels

    M23 militia, which the UN says is backed by Rwanda, takes control of eastern city despite presence of peacekeepers

    The Guardian, By Pete Jones & David Smith, November 20

    Goma/Johannesburg – Rebel fighters have seized a major city in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo after the national army fled and UN peacekeepers offered no resistance.

    The militia group M23, allegedly backed by neighbouring Rwanda, marched into the city of 1 million people on Tuesday morning after days of clashes.

    Scores of heavily armed rebels walked through the city unchallenged as UN peacekeepers watched and small groups of residents greeted them.

  • DR Congo soldiers surrender to rebels

    Thousands of soldiers and police surrender to M23 at a stadium in Goma after the group takes control of the city.

    Al Jazeera, November 21

    Thousands of government soldiers and police in the Democratic Republic of Congo have surrendered to rebels at a stadium in Goma, the main city in the eastern North Kivu province.

    Al Jazeera’s Nazanine Moshiri reported on “extraordinary scenes”, as the security officers came to hand in their arms on Wednesday.

    “[The surrendered officers] didn’t have a choice,” she said. They were told “they had a choice either to have peace in the city, or to leave the city”.

    The M23 rebel group, believed to be backed by Rwanda, seized Goma on Tuesday, in a development that raised fears of a new, regional conflict. The capture of the city came after days of fighting with government troops.

    The rebels were also reported to have taken control of the town of Sake, on the road to Bukavu.

    “The [rebels] arrived an hour ago. Luckily there was no force used. Now they’re pretty much everywhere … The army had already left,” Christian Bigebika, executive secretary of an association of local rights groups, told the Reuters news agency by telephone from the town, between Goma and Bukavu.

  • Congo rebels ‘ready to march on Kinshasa’

    M23 group says it will take control of Democratic Republic of the Congo after seizing city of Goma.

    The Guardian, By Pete Jones, November 21

    Goma, Congo – The rebel group M23 has said it is ready to march on the capital city of Kinshasa and take control of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), having captured Goma, the main city in the east of the country.

    At a gathering of civilians, police and government soldiers at the Stade du Volcan football stadium in Goma, thousands of Congolese troops defected to the rebels, as the M23 military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Vianney Kazarama issued a message to the president, Joseph Kabila.

    “People say we have balkanised the Congo, but that is wrong. We will go to Kinshasa, we will unite the country,” he announced. “The DRC is indivisible. Nobody will divide the country.” The crowd cheered its approval. Later, Kazarama told journalists: “We will go to Kinshasa if the people there invite us. We obey the will of the people. If they want Kabila [to resign], we will support the people.”

    • DR Congo President Kabila to study M23 rebel grievances

      BBC, November 21

      The leader of the Democratic Republic of Congo says he is prepared to study the grievances of rebels who have taken the country’s main eastern city, Goma.

      Speaking after talks with his Ugandan and Rwandan counterparts, Joseph Kabila also said he would consider negotiating with the rebels from the M23 movement.

      But the three leaders called on the rebels to stop their offensive “immediately” and leave Goma.

      Earlier, the rebels threatened to march on the capital, Kinshasa.

  • M23 rebels withdraw supplies and weapons from Goma

    M23 rebels holding the main city in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo were withdrawing supplies and weapons after a peace deal was agreed.

    The Telegraph, By Mike Pflanz, November 28

    Nairobi – Lorries filled with weapons, ammunition and food were seen heading from Goma towards rebel strongholds in the forests further north.

    Rebel patrols in the city, held for more than a week by the M23 movement, had also been scaled back and witnesses said that they saw fewer of the groups’ soldiers on the streets.

    Its commanders agreed to pull troops back to positions some 12 miles outside of Goma, following peace talks mediated by the government of Uganda in Kampala.

    “Now we are still in Goma, but we will be gone soon,” Sultani Makenga, the rebel commander, said on Wednesday.

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