Tag Archives: DR Congo

Shooting across Rwanda-Dr Congo broder after seizure of soldier

Reuters

(Reuters) – Heavy weapons fire broke out between Rwandan and Congolese troops near their border on Wednesday after the Congolese government said Rwandan forces crossed the frontier and seized a Congolese soldier.

Rwandan rebels have long skirmished with troops from Democratic Republic of Congo, but it is rare for soldiers from the two armies to clash directly outside of occasional accusations of shelling.

Rwanda officially withdrew troops from eastern Congo from a previous war a decade ago.

“Elements from the Rwandan army crossed the border not far from Kibumba around 3:30 a.m. and took a Congolese corporal, which provoked a reaction from our soldiers there who opened fire,” Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende said.

The gunfire eased off after the exchanges in the early hours, but resumed again later in the day.

“The Rwandan army attacked our positions at the border with heavy artillery,” governor for the North Kivu province Julien Paluku told Reuters.

“They are advancing on our positions, naturally we have responded but we don’t want it to escalate into a conflict between the two countries,” he added.

It was not immediately clear whether Rwandan troops were on Congolese territory. Rwandan government officials were not immediately available for comment.

Renewed tensions between the two neighbours may undermine international efforts to bring stability to Congo’s mineral-rich, lawless east and the wider region after years of conflict.

The two countries have fought two wars in two decades in eastern Congo. Violence has often been prompted by Rwandan interventions in Congolese territory, which it says are required to hunt down Hutu militia that fled Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.

The eastern province of North Kivu is where Congo’s army, backed by U.N. peacekeepers, defeated the Tutsi-led M23 rebellion last year. Rwanda denied allegations by Congo and United Nations officials that it had backed the rebellion.

Numerous rebel groups still operate in the eastern provinces and the Congolese government has vowed to target them. General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz, commander of U.N. peacekeepers in Congo, told a news conference on Wednesday fighting had taken place and said the United Nations would investigate the clash.

A Reuters reporter said that several Rwandan army helicopters were circling above the Kigali airport on Wednesday, although it was not clear if they were linked to the operation. Reuters

BBC

Rwanda and DR Congo ‘battle over kidnapped soldier’

Democratic Republic of Congo government soldiers in the east pictured in 2012 Friction in between DR Congo and its neighbour has led to decades of instability in the east

Rwandan forces and troops from the Democratic Republic of Congo are fighting each other on the border, the Congolese information minister says.

Lambert Mende told the BBC the battle began when a unit of Rwanda soldiers crossed over the border and attacked in early on Wednesday.

After fighting for nearly two hours, the Rwandans kidnapped an army corporal and went home, he said.

Clashes resumed when the Congolese learnt the officer had been killed.

The Rwandan authorities have yet to comment on the violence.

The neighbours have had a fractious relationship since the 1994 genocide when those accused of involvement in the killings of an estimated 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus set up a militia in eastern DR Congo.

People carrying their belongings flee fighting near Kibumba - 2008 Over the years residents near the border with Rwanda have often had to flee their homes because of conflict

Mr Mende said the fighting was in Buhumba in North Kivu province.

The Rwandan soldiers came over the border at about 04:30 local time (03:30 GMT), he told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme.

He said the fighting broke out again in the afternoon when Congolese soldiers heard the news about their captured colleague.

“There is now fighting. There are also talks – we need really to know what is happening with them,” Mr Mende said.

Rwanda has been accused by the UN of playing a part in the unrest in DR Congo over the years, a charge it denies.

Most recently it was accused of backing a rebellion by the M23 – a mainly ethnic Tutsi movement, which was defeated by the Congolese military and a special UN brigade in November.

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Troublesome neighbours

Map
  • April-June 1994: Genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda
  • June 1994: Paul Kagame’s Tutsi rebels take power in Rwanda, Hutu fighters flee into Zaire (DR Congo)
  • Rwanda’s army enters eastern Zaire to pursue Hutu fighters
  • 1997: Laurent Kabila’s AFDL, backed by Rwanda, takes power in Kinshasa
  • 1998: Rwanda accuses Kabila of not acting against Hutu rebels and tries to topple him, sparking five years of conflict
  • 2003: War officially ends but Hutu and Tutsi militias continue to clash in eastern DR Congo
  • 2008: Tutsi-led CNDP rebels march on North Kivu capital, Goma – 250,000 people flee
  • 2009: Rwanda and DR Congo agree peace deal and CNDP integrated into Congolese army
  • 2012: M23 mutiny led by former CNDP leader Bosco “Terminator” Ntaganda
  • 2013: M23, which Rwanda denies backing, is defeated
  • BBC

 

ICC ready to put DR Congo’s Ntaganda on trial

Reuters

ICC ready to put Congolese warlord on trial

AMSTERDAM

Congolese militia leader Bosco Ntaganda appears at the International Criminal Court charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity in a hearing in The Hague February 10, 2014. REUTERS/Toussaint Kluiters/United Photos/Pool

Congolese militia leader Bosco Ntaganda appears at the International Criminal Court charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity in a hearing in The Hague February 10, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Toussaint Kluiters/United Photos/Pool

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Prosecutors have presented enough evidence to justify putting on trial a Congolese militia leader accused of rape, murder and enlisting child soldiers, judges at the International Criminal Court said on Monday.

Bosco Ntaganda, widely known as “the Terminator”, surrendered to the U.S. embassy in the Rwandan capital Kigali in March and was transferred to the ICC in The Hague.

Judges said in a statement there was sufficient evidence of his involvement to proceed to a trial. He will face 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged involvement in a surge of ethnic violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo more than a decade ago.

Prosecutors will now seek to prove the charges against Ntaganda, who commanded the United of Congolese Patriots (UPC) militia, in a trial.

“There was a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population,” the judges said in a statement. The UPC militia targeted “civilians perceived to be non-Hema, such as those belonging to Lendu, Bira and Nande ethnic groups”.

The decision marked a rare success for prosecutors, who have struggled to build solid cases at the court, established more than a decade ago to prosecute individuals responsible for war crimes.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch said Monday’s decision would open the way for broader justice in wartorn east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“The ICC decision sending Ntaganda to trial opens the door to justice for victims of horrific crimes in Ituri,” said Geraldine Mattioli-Zeltner, international justice advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.

“Ntaganda’s upcoming trial will send a powerful message to those responsible for grave crimes in Congo that justice will eventually catch up with them.”  Reuters

 

Many killed in eastern DR Congo fighting

BBC

At least 30 people have been killed in an inter-ethnic attack on a village in the South Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, say local officials.

Witnesses say the dead included women and children, some killed inside a church where they had been sleeping.

All the victims were of the Bafuliru ethnic background.

It was not immediately clear who had carried out the attack, but the region has seen ongoing conflict between the Bafuliru and Barundi communities.

“It was about a dispute over cows,” South Kivu governor Marcellin Cishambo told Reuters news agency, putting the number killed at 27.

“The problem is that everyone in this area carries a weapon.”

One local councillor put the number of dead at 33, telling AFP they were “eight men, 14 women, 10 children and a soldier”, and that another 28 people were wounded.

A Reuters reporter said the victims had been shot, stabbed or burned in their homes, and that some of the women were pregnant.

Eastern DR Congo has been wracked by conflict since 1994, when Hutu militias fled across the border from Rwanda after carrying out a genocide against Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Around a dozen armed groups still operate in the region, many taking advantage of the weak government to seize the control of the area’s rich natural resources. BBC

DR Congo says Rwanda protecting M23 rebels

BBC
Rwanda ‘protecting M23 DR Congo rebels’

The Democratic Republic of Congo has accused Rwanda of “protecting” M23 rebel leaders wanted for war crimes.

A government official told the BBC that seven months after the end of the rebellion, Rwanda was also delaying attempts to interview about 500 ex-fighters currently in a camp in Rwanda.

Some 800,000 people fled their homes in eastern DR Congo during the insurgency.

Rwanda has long denied that it supported the rebels and says it is co-operating with DR Congo’s requests.

The M23 took up arms in eastern DR Congo in April 2012, accusing the government of marginalising the ethnic Tutsi minority and failing to honour previous peace accords.

Following their defeat at the hands of the Congolese army and a UN brigade in November 2013, former fighters gathered in camps in neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda.

At the scene: Maud Jullien, BBC Africa, Rwanda

It was surprisingly easy to find the camp in the town of Ngoma, in eastern Rwanda – far from the Congolese border.

When we arrived, dozens of young men were gripping onto the camp’s fence – peering outside onto the road.

After more than a year in the camp, most of them say they are fed up with the wait, and want asylum in Rwanda. Despite DR Congo’s offer of amnesty, they don’t feel it is safe to return.

Inside, the camp looked quite neat and peaceful. A garden, a few red buildings and a stretch of large white tents, where the former rebels sleep in groups of six.

They cook for themselves in an outdoor kitchen. They only leave the camp to go see a doctor, but they are allowed to keep their mobile phones.

On the whole, it seems like a comfortable camp – certainly not a prison. Officials tell me more than 100 of them have run away since they arrived 15 months ago.

The group’s former leader Jean Marie Runiga has no intention of leaving. Despite being accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity in DR Congo, he is requesting asylum in Rwanda. He is hosted in a house outside the camp, which he told me was very comfortable.

The subsequent peace accord stipulated that former fighters would be granted an amnesty on their return to DR Congo – and leaders of the group should be returned to face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

But Francois Muamba, who works for DR Congo’s government to ensure regional peace and security, has accused Rwanda of dragging its feet over these promises, to contrast to Uganda.

He said Rwanda was “protecting” four wanted M23 leaders, but DR Congo did not want to press the issue as it was “not looking for war” with its neighbour.

All four are under UN sanctions.

Attempts by Congolese officials to interview former fighters about their return to DR Congo had not been authorised by the Rwandan authorities, he said.

“I am speculating that this is because we will discover that about 70% of former combatants are Rwandan, not Congolese,” Mr Muamba told the BBC.

“They could also be keeping these people as a means of pressure,” he said.

The M23 has been DR Congo’s most active group until it was defeated in November 2013
Made up mostly of ethnic Tutsis, like Rwanda’s leaders
US and other donors have cut aid to Rwanda, accusing it of backing the M23
Rwanda denies the charges
At least 10 other armed groups still operate in eastern DR Congo
They often make money by controlling the trade in the region’s minerals such as gold, tin and coltan, used in mobile phones

However, Rwanda’s Justice Minister Johnston Busingye told the BBC correct procedures had to be followed and that DR Congo had not yet provided the necessary documents for a transfer of the wanted M23 leaders, including the group’s political leader Jean Marie Runiga.

DR Congo initially made its transfer request in July 2013 – and has not yet replied to requests for further documents.

Mr Buingye said Rwanda had a duty of care to all the former rebels as human beings.

“Were we supposed to just throw them out on to the streets? We respect international humanitarian law.”

On a visit to a camp in Rwanda for former M23 rebels, the BBC’s Maud Jullien said many former fighters were applying for asylum in Rwanda and did not want to go back to DR Congo.

Many people in DR Congo feel strongly that the former rebel leaders should be brought justice, our reporter says.

Eastern DR Congo has been wracked by conflict since 1994, when Hutu militias fled across the border from Rwanda after carrying out a genocide against Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Rwanda’s current government is mostly made up of ethnic Tutsis who fought against the Hutu genocidal government.

Laurent Nkunda, another Tutsi who led a rebel group in eastern DR Congo, remains in Rwanda five years after he fled there. He is officially under house arrest but there are no moves to prosecute him.

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-27714346

Rape in DR Congo’s prisons a punishment for political activity

BBC

Rape ‘routine’ in DR Congo prisons

Freedom From Torture says rape is being used to intimidate women

Security officials “routinely” rape women in prisons in DR Congo as punishment for their political activities, a UK-based charity says.

Freedom From Torture said medical reports of 34 women showed many of them had been brutally gang-raped.

The women – who included traders and professionals aged between 18 and 62 – are seeking asylum in the UK.

Democratic Republic of Congo government spokesman Lambert Mende told the BBC the report lacked credibility.

It did not contain enough facts and details, he said.

Two Congolese human rights groups told the BBC they had not received any reports of political rape in the country’s prisons, although they said it might happen in secret detention centres.

In its report, Freedom From Torture said one woman was arrested and raped after organising a protest against sexual violence.

A Congolese soldier is stripped of his rank and uniform after the mass trial of 39 soldiers inside a military court in Goma in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, on 5 May 2014 Some Congolese soldiers were convicted of rape in May

The group’s Dr Juliet Cohen told the BBC: “There are some striking consistencies in the experiences of sexual violence and torture of the women in this report which strongly suggests that this horrific abuse is being routinely carried out in prisons in the DRC.”

‘Not human beings’

DR Congo is often dubbed the “rape capital of the world”, with rights groups saying that rape and sexual violence has become a weapon of war since conflict broke out in the early 1990s in the east of the country.

In May, two soldiers were convicted of rape by a military court.

“Start Quote

They raped my niece in front of us”

End Quote ‘Faith’ Anti-rape campaigner

Freedom From Torture said women were raped by security force members to stop “women speaking out about politics, human rights and, in some cases, rape itself”.

It says women were abused at several locations in the capital, Kinshasa 1,500 km (1,000 miles) from the conflict zones.

One woman, named as Faith in the report, said security agents raided her home in early 2013 after she organised an anti-rape protest in the province of Bas Congo, west of Kinshasa.

“One of them said: ‘You are talking about rape, now we’ll show you what rape means’. They raped my niece in front of us. Then they took me to prison,” she is quoted as saying in the report.

“Now I know, because I have been there, that it is normal for women to be sexually abused in prison,” she said.

“The soldiers and the prison guards, they don’t see women as human beings, they don’t see any value in women. I can’t even remember how many times I was raped.”

Since her arrival in the UK, Faith has been admitted to hospital, Freedom From Torture said.

“She suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression and she no longer likes being around other people,” it added.

Josephine Mfulu-Batonda, who has monitored human rights abuses in prisons for several years for the organisation ACIDH, told the BBC’s Maud Jullien that, in the past year, eight of the 100 women in Kinshasa’s main prison, Makala, had reported being sexually abused but these were not political detainees.

Makala is one of the places where Freedom From Torture documented political rape.

Ms Mfulu-Batonda said it was common for prison staff and other inmates to force female prisoners into prostitution and to share the profit.

La Voix des Sans Voix (Voice of the Voiceless) works closely with inmates of visits Kinshasa’s main prison and says it hasn’t had any reports of rape there since 2006.

The group’s Rostin Manketa says if there were any cases of female activists being raped as a result of their political activity, this would be an extremely serious issue and they would have reported it. BBC

Limited impact of Europe and aid on DR Congo

African Arguments

Europe in the Congo: high ambitions, big money, limited impact – By Kris Berwouts

Berwouts

After the Congolese elections of 2006, the European Union stood as the proud godfather beside the cradle of Kabila’s Third Republic. Together with its member states, the EU had mobilized about 85% of the funding for elections which were widely recognised as being the most expensive in the history of the planet.

Through its humanitarian and development programmes, Europe invested enormous sums in the Congo. It had the ambition to take the lead in long and complex processes of reforms for the army and the police, and the rehabilitation of the judiciary system.

Today, seven years later, Europe has faded away in to the wings. Not only has the European architecture suffered severe damage in the different political, economic and financial storms that scourged the Union, also other ambitious potential partners of Congo stepped into the ring. China, of course, sits in first place with the multibillion contract it offered the DRC in 2007. But also countries such as India, Tanzania, South Africa and others rapidly gained visibility and influence.

Audit

A few days ago, a report of the European Court of Auditors was published which examined the EU support between 2003 (the start of the transition after the end of the war) and 2011 (the re-election of Kabila).  The EU’s assistance to Congo in that period was about 1.9 billion euro. The report focused particularly on EU support for the electoral process, the justice and police and public finance management reforms and the decentralisation process.

The judgment is harsh.  Two quotes from the report:

“The Court concludes that the effectiveness of EU assistance for governance in the DRC is limited. EU support for governance is set within a generally sound cooperation strategy, addresses the main needs and has achieved some results. However, progress is slow, uneven and overall limited. Fewer than half of the programmes examined have delivered, or are likely to deliver, most of the expected results. Sustainability is an unrealistic prospect in most cases.”

“The absence of political will, the donor-driven dynamics of the programmes and the lack of absorption capacity account for these failures. However, while the Commission is well acquainted with the main causes and consequences of state fragility in the DRC , it did not take sufficient account of these challenges when designing EU programmes. Risks have not been adequately addressed, programme objectives tend to be overly ambitious, conditionality has a weak incentive effect and policy dialogue has not been exploited to its full potential and adequately coordinated with EU Members.”

Ambiguity

The European Union did not fulfill its ambitions in the fields of democracy and security. This was in part due to the ambiguity in the signals they have sent concerning democratisation.

For example, the EU insists a great deal on the holding of elections, but goes quite far in accepting non-democratic practices. This behaviour is partially based on looking for a difficult balance between the desire to really contribute to the development of democracy on the one hand, and on the other hand concern about not damaging a stability that is relative and precarious. The result is often a choice between what is considered the lesser of two evils. Of course this pragmatism is also based on a good understanding by each international player of its own bilateral interests.  The ambiguity of the Congo’s Western partners is well understood, both by political players in the region and the local population.

If Europe wants to make a difference in security, democracy and governance in Congo, it will have to ensure the credibility, quality and transparency of the different processes and reforms it supports, and not limit itself to the technocratic accompaniment of some formal exercises.

Kris Berwouts has, over the last 25 years, worked for a number of different Belgian and international NGOs focused on building peace, reconciliation, security and democratic processes. Until recently, he was the Director of EurAc, the network of European NGOs working for advocacy on Central Africa. He now works as an independent expert on Central Africa. aa

DR Congo – M23 says attacks on them could stop peace talks

Mail and Guardian
M23 rebels in the DRC have warned that attacks in the eastern part of the country may derail peace talks.

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s M23 rebels said attacks on areas under the movement’s control in the eastern part of the country may derail peace talks under way in Uganda’s capital Kampala.

A second round of meetings were concluded on Tuesday. At the beginning of this week the M23 lauded the progress being made at the talks, but are now bemoaning the attack on their positions, which they accuse the Congolese government army FARDC of spearheading.

The United Nations peacekeeping and stabilisation force Monusco on Thursday reported renewed fighting in the North Kivu province between the M23 and the Congolese army.

Monusco’s Alexandre Essome said fresh violence had erupted near the town of Mabenga, north of the North Kivu capital Goma.

While Monusco blamed M23 for causing the latest round of fighting, M23 claimed that a coalition of FARDC and some Mai Mai militias on Wednesday night attacked Mabenga-Kiwanja and Kinyandoni Ishasha, areas the movement controls.

“This is the way of the Congolese government to undermine the peace efforts undertook in recent days by the international community,” said M23 chairperson Bertrand Bisimwa in a statement.

He added: “While reiterating our commitment to the Kampala process as the only way to resolve the crisis in our country, our army will defend the population living in our administered area against any threat.”

M23 accused the FARDC of having a “warlike desire, which favours the bloodshed of our people” instead of resolving the stand-off that has turned eastern DRC into a warzone.

South African soldiers form part of the SADC intervention brigade that has been put together to help the Congolese army push rebels out of residential areas. The SADC forces were however not involved in this week’s fighting, though they remain on standby.

The M23 earlier expressed hope that if the Great Lakes region, Monusco, the African Union and the European Union provided the requested political and technical support to the Kampala dialogue, an agreement would be reached soon.

The movement declared a unilateral ceasefire after just over a week of fighting last month. The M23 has since requested an independent investigation into that battle, claiming the movement was only trying to protect its positions.

A mutiny by FARDC soldiers early last year resulted in the formation of the M23 after members from disbanded rebel groups who were integrated into the army complained that Joseph Kabila’s government had failed to implement key agreements of the peace talks that ended hostilities. Since then peace talks have repeatedly stalled.

Mmanaledi Mataboge is senior politics reporter for the Mail & Guardian.
Read more from Mmanaledi Mataboge
Twitter: @MmanalediM http://mg.co.za/article/2013-09-29-m23-rebels-say-attacks-threaten-peace-talks

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DR Congo conflict: M23’s Bisimwa reject UN force

BBC

UN troops in DR Congo (file photo)The UN-mandated force is to hunt down and “neutralise” rebel groups

The main rebel group in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, M23, has rejected the UN’s decision to deploy a special attack force to the area.

M23 political leader Bertrand Bisimwa said the UN had chosen the “war option”, rather than promoting dialogue to end the conflict in eastern DRC.

The M23 briefly captured the regional capital, Goma, last year, with little resistance from UN peacekeepers.

Various armed groups have wreaked havoc in eastern DR Congo for two decades.

The M23-led rebellion flared up a year ago and has forced some 800,000 people from their homes.


From now on, peacekeeping forces will wage war on groups of citizens who are demanding good governance”  Bertrand BisimwaM23 political leader

Last week, the UN Security Council approved plans to send an Intervention Brigade of about 2,000 troops to DR Congo in July to “carry out targeted offensive operations” to “neutralise” armed groups in eastern DR Congo.

The UN currently has about 20,000 troops in DR Congo, but they were widely criticised for failing to prevent the M23 from capturing Goma last November.

The M23 later pulled out of the city, following pressure from neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda.

In his first reaction to the resolution, Mr Bisimwa said that “from now on, peacekeeping forces will wage war on groups of citizens who are demanding good governance in our country”.

Instead of encouraging the M23 and the government to resolve the conflict through talks being brokered by the Ugandan government, the UN had “unfortunately chosen to wage war against one of the partners for peace”, Mr Bisimwa added.

map

Last week, the DR Congo government welcomed the UN’s decision to deploy the new force.

Its main mission should be to secure the border with Rwanda and Uganda, the government said.

The government and the UN have repeatedly accused the two countries of backing the M23 – an allegation they deny.

Last week, a key figure in the M23, Bosco Ntaganda, was charged at the International Criminal Court with war crimes and crimes against humanity for alleged atrocities committed in 2002 and 2003.

He had surrendered to the US embassy in Kigali, following heavy fighting within the M23.

Gen Ntaganda’s faction lost control of the group to Mr Bisimwa and M23 military chief Sultani Makenga. bbc

DR Congo – M23 rebels start pulling out of Goma

BBC

M23 rebels leave Goma in eastern DR Congo, 1 Dec The Rebels are pulling back under a deal mediated by Uganda

Rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have begun to withdraw from the key city of Goma under a regionally brokered agreement.

The M23 rebels were seen boarding trucks and heading out of the city, 11 days after seizing it from government troops backed by UN peacekeepers.

The deal calls for the rebels to withdraw towards the town of Kibumba.

The M23 rebels deserted from the army in April, with some 500,000 people fleeing their homes in ensuing unrest.

Who are the M23 rebels?

Map

  • Named after the 23 March 2009 peace accord which they accuse the government of violating
  • This deal saw them join the army before they took up arms once more in April 2012
  • Also known as the Congolese Revolutionary Army
  • Mostly from minority Tutsi ethnic group
  • Deny being backed by Rwanda and Uganda
  • Believed to have 1,200 to 6,000 fighters
  • International Criminal Court indicted top commander Bosco “Terminator” Ntaganda in 2006 for allegedly recruiting child soldiers
  • The UN and US imposed a travel ban and asset freeze earlier this month on the group’s leader, Sultani Makenga

 

The UK has suspended aid to Rwanda, amid concerns about the country’s role in the conflict.

Both Rwanda and neighbouring Uganda strongly deny UN accusations that they are backing the M23.

Humanitarian crisis

Reports on Saturday spoke of a number of flat-bed trucks carrying several hundred rebels out of Goma.

Some 1,500 M23 fighters were reported to have occupied the city.

M23 deputy spokesman Amani Kabasha told Reuters: “The M23 is leaving Goma.”

According to the withdrawal accord, mediated by Uganda, the rebels are to pull back to a 20km (13 mile) buffer zone around Goma.

The accord had stipulated that the M23 would leave behind 100 soldiers to guard the airport in conjunction with a UN contingent and a government unit.

However, Sy Koumbo, a spokesman for the UN in Congo, told Associated Press that the rebels had tried but failed to force their way into the airport to seize weapons on Friday.

The rebels said recovering the materiel was part of the withdrawal process.

More than 270 Congolese policemen have arrived in Goma’s port as part of the transition.

The UN has warned of a growing humanitarian crisis in the region because of the recent fighting.

Goma is the key city in an eastern border area that has seen years of conflict sparked by ethnic and political differences, and grievances over mineral resources.

Some five million people died during the 1997-2003 DR Congo conflict, which drew in several regional countries, including both Rwanda and Uganda.  bbc

DR Congo president to consider rebel grievances

BBC

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.

On Wednesday they advanced on Sake, 27km (17 miles) west of Goma. They were reported to be preparing to head south to Bukavu, the city about 230km (143 miles) south of Goma.

The M23 rebel commander told a crowd in a football stadium in Goma that “the journey to liberate [DR] Congo has started”.

The BBC’s Gabriel Gatehouse in Goma says it is unclear whether the rebels’ capacity matches their ambitions, but they currently have momentum on their side.

The M23 rebel group was formed in April following an army mutiny. The rebels said they were not given army posts promised in a 2009 peace deal.

The M23’s gains have raised fears of renewed war in DR Congo, where some five million people died in a conflict from 1997-2003.

 

Who are the M23 rebels?

M23 rebel in North Kivu town of Rubare near Rutshuru. 5 Aug 2012

  • Named after the 23 March 2009 peace accord which they accuse the government of violating
  • This deal saw them join the army before they took up arms once more in April 2012
  • Also known as the Congolese Revolutionary Army
  • Mostly from minority Tutsi ethnic group
  • Deny being backed by Rwanda and Uganda
  • Believed to have 1,200 to 6,000 fighters
  • International Criminal Court indicted top commander Bosco “Terminator” Ntaganda in 2006 for allegedly recruiting child soldiers
  • The UN and US imposed a travel ban and asset freeze earlier this month on the group’s leader, Sultani Makenga

‘Summary executions’

Meanwhile, the UN released a long-awaited report accusing both Rwanda and Uganda of backing the M23, saying the rebel chain of command culminates with Rwandan Defence Minister James Kabarebe.

Both Rwanda and Uganda strongly denied the accusations after the report was leaked last month.

UN envoy Roger Meece referred to suspicions of international support for the rebels as he briefed the Security Council on Wednesday.

“The M23 forces are well provisioned and well supplied with uniforms and a variety of arms and ammunitions, many of which have clearly not come from existing FARDC [army] stocks,” he was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

He also cited reports of rebel abuses.

“We have received numerous reports of targeted summary executions of those who stand in their way, including government and traditional leaders who resist or fail to co-operate,” he said.

The rebels entered Goma on Tuesday, skirting round a UN compound as Congolese army forces retreated.

France has heavily criticised the failure of the UN force, which has about 19,000 troops, to stop the rebels.

On Wednesday the UN defended its actions, saying it had fired hundreds of rockets in an effort to block the rebel advance on Goma.

Map

Mr Meece also said UN peacekeepers were stretched, and that the number of rebels advancing on Goma had suddenly jumped from 500 to 3,000 ahead of the fall of the city.

UN officials have said they wanted to avoid triggering a battle in Goma, and that they were limited by their mandate.

“Clearly, it is not the mandate of Monusco to directly hit the armed groups,” said UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous. “They have to be in support of the armed forces of Congo.”

The UN Security Council has adopted a resolution condemning the rebel seizure of Goma and calling for sanctions against M23 leaders.

The rebellion has displaced some 500,000 people since April.  bbc