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Congo Rebels In Control Of Key Capital, UN Demands Withdrawal



GOMA – Hundreds of Congolese government soldiers and police surrendered Wednesday to the M23 rebels at a stadium in the key provincial capital of Goma, as the seven-month-old regional strife threatens to blow up into full-fledged civil war. 

It only took a few hours of combat, on Tuesday, for the M23 rebels, also known as the Congolese Revolution Army, to take total control of Goma, the capital of the North Kivu province near the Democratic Republic of Congo's border with Rwanda, writes Jeune Afrique.

Explosions and machine-gun fire rocked the city, as civilians ran for cover and children were screaming, reports Al Jazeera. Hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing the city, reports the BBC.

Fighting broke out in April in North Kivu between M23 rebels and government forces following disagreements over a 2009 peace accord that integrated National Congress Defence of the People (CNDP) rebels into the national army. The M23 are former CNDP members who believe the deal was not properly implemented by the Kabila regime, which they oppose.

According to the UN, the violence in eastern Congo has displaced nearly half a million people since April.

A spokesman for the M23 rebels, who are reportedly being backed by neighboring Rwanda, said they were planning to “liberate” the country, according to Al Jazeera: "The journey to liberate Congo has started now ... […] Are you ready to join us?" the M23 rebels told the crowd of more than 1,000 in a stadium in Goma.

According to the BBC, more than 20,000 UN soldiers from the Monusco peacekeeping force have been powerless in stemming the conflict. The UN peacekeepers were not able to help government forces during Tuesday's battle in Goma, because they do not have a mandate to engage the rebels.

Late Tuesday, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution demanding, “the immediate withdrawal" of M23 from Goma and "the cessation of any further advances.” The Security Council also demanded that “any and all outside support cease immediately to the M23.” 

On Monday, Simon Tisdall of the Guardian wrote “The rising scream of pain emanating from the people of eastern Congo, trapped in a horrific and accelerating cycle of murder, mutilation, rape, exploitation and mass displacement, is barely heard. While the world has focused on Syria, Barack Obama’s re-election, and now Gaza, the plight of nearly 800,000 people uprooted this year by near-anarchy in North Kivu and South Kivu provinces hardly rates a mention.”

He concludes his essay by writing, “for whatever reason, Congo does not register internationally as a cause or an issue. It is a stain on the global conscience that is largely ignored. For this lethal state of denial, all are to blame.”

Fleeing the conflict. Photo Julien Harneis.

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