The Freeland File
Aerospace & Defense
Global Market Data
Lucy P. Marcus
The Great Debate
Macro & Markets
Lipper Awards 2012
Personal Finance Video
Our best photos from the last 24 hours. Slideshow
Download our Wider Image iPad app
Images of October
Truce mediator Egypt sees imminent end to Gaza conflict
Attacker stabs guard at U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv: police
Obama urges restraint in tense Asian disputes
Four men charged in California with terrorist plot
Lindsay Lohan, Liz Taylor and pages of "what ifs" for TV's "Liz & Dick"
Top Hamas commander killed in Israeli airstrike
Israel hammers Hamas in Gaza offensive
Egypt PM to visit Gaza in support of Hamas against Israel
Our day's top images, in-depth photo essays and offbeat slices of life. See the best of Reuters photography. See more
Best of the AMAs
Highlights from the American Music Awards. Slideshow
Scenes from Gaza and Israel. Slideshow
Congo rebels claim control of city as Rwanda tensions rise
Uganda blames leaked U.N. report for escalation in Congo conflict
Congo's Kabila on way to conflict-mediator Uganda: state TV
Congo rebel presence unnecessary at Kampala talks: Uganda
Analysis & Opinion
Street fighting in Harem, Syria
Congolese army fires at rebel bases
Mon, Nov 19 2012
1 of 3. Displaced people cross the border from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) into Rwanda, November 20, 2012, as the Congolese Revolutionary Army fights with the DRC government army on the periphery of Goma, the capital of Congo's North Kivu province. Rwanda accused U.N.-backed Congolese forces of shelling its territory during a battle with rebels near the border on Monday but said it had no plans to respond militarily to what it called Kinshasa's ''provocation''.
Credit: Reuters/James Akena
By Jonny Hogg
GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo |
Tue Nov 20, 2012 8:37am EST
GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) - Rebels widely believed to be backed by Rwanda claimed control of Goma in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday, parading through the frontier city of one million people past U.N. peacekeepers who did nothing to stop them.
Hundreds of fighters from the M23 group entered Goma after days of clashes with U.N.-backed Congolese soldiers that forced tens of thousands of residents to flee. A senior U.N. source told Reuters that international peacekeepers had given up defending the city after the Congolese troops evacuated.
"There is no army left in the town, not a soul... Once they were in the town what could we do? It could have been very serious for the population," he said asking not to be named.
The rebellion has aggravated tensions between Congo and its neighbor Rwanda, which Kinshasa's government says is orchestrating the insurgency as a means of grabbing the chaotic region's mineral wealth.
Rwanda denies the assertion. However, Congolese Information Minister Lambert Mende ruled out talks with the rebels, suggesting they were proxies of the Rwandan government.
"We will continue (resisting) until Rwanda has been pushed out of our country ... There will be absolutely no negotiations with M23," Mende said, adding that Kinshasa would talk only directly with Rwanda.
U.N. experts say Rwanda, a small but militarily capable neighbor that has intervened in Congo repeatedly over the past 18 years, is behind the M23 revolt. Congo's mineral wealth, including diamonds, gold, copper and coltan - used in mobile phones - has inflamed the conflict and little has been spent on developing a country the size of Western Europe.
Goma's capture will also be an embarrassment for President Joseph Kabila, who won re-election late last year in polls that provoked widespread riots in Kinshasa and which international observers said were marred by fraud.
Congolese state television reported on Tuesday that Kabila, who has made few public comments on the rebellion in recent weeks, is travelling to Uganda, the mediator in the conflict with the eastern rebels.
Uganda's Junior Foreign Affairs Minister Asuman Kiyingi told Reuters the rebels would not attend the talks.
In the capital Kinshasa, security forces used tear gas and fired shots in the air to disperse a few hundred youths protesting the fall of Goma in a central square. Residents in Congo's second city, Kisangani, attacked Kabila's local party headquarters in frustration.
While conflict has simmered almost constantly in Congo's east in recent years, this is the first time Goma has fallen to rebels since foreign troops officially pulled out under peace deals at the end of the most recent 1998-2003 war.
Hundreds of M23 fighters accompanied their leader Sultani Makenga into Goma, where they were greeted by cheering crowds shouting "welcome" and "thank you".
"We've taken the town, it's under control," said Colonel Vianney Kazarama, a spokesman for the rebels. "We're very tired, we're going to greet our friends now." On Monday, Kazarama had denied the rebels would take the city.
The U.N. has about 6,700 peacekeeping troops in North Kivu, including some 1,400 troops in and around Goma, and the mission had previously promised to defend the town. On Tuesday afternoon, armored U.N. vehicles continued to circulate in the town offering help to residents, but troops did not try to block the rebels. No government troops were to be seen.
Before the rebels seized the city, streams of residents headed for the nearby border with Rwanda. More than 50,000 people who fled fighting earlier this year have abandoned refugee camps around Goma.
"With the war, we're suffering so much, I've never seen anything like this in my life," a woman who gave her name only as Aisha told Reuters, clutching her three children.
M23 is led by mutinying soldiers who rose up eight months ago, contending that Congo's government violated a 2009 peace deal that was meant to integrate them into the army.
The central African nation's wars have killed about 5 million people and many eastern areas are still plagued by violence from a variety of rebel groups, despite the U.N.-backed efforts to defeat them.
Uganda has blamed the escalation of fighting in eastern Congo on a leaked U.N. report that accused it and Rwanda of supporting Congolese rebels, a document Kampala said damaged its mediation efforts.
Kampala has vigorously denied the U.N. charges, which emerged in October, and Kiyingi said they had undermined Kampala's mediating role.
"Uganda was mediating in this conflict ... and we had managed to restrain M23," Kiyingi said. "Then the U.N. comes up with these wild and baseless allegations against us and we decided to step aside and leave the situation to them and now you see the results."
Uganda has threatened to pull its troops out of peacekeeping operations in Somalia unless the U.N. allegations are withdrawn.
(Additional reporting by Elias Biryabarema in Kampala; David Lewis in Dakar; Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by David Lewis and David Stamp)
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Be the first to comment on reuters.com.
Add yours using the box above.
Back to top
New York Legal
Support & Contact
Connect with Reuters
Our Flagship financial information platform incorporating Reuters Insider
An ultra-low latency infrastructure for electronic trading and data distribution
A connected approach to governance, risk and compliance
Our next generation legal research platform
Our global tax workstation
About Thomson Reuters
Thomson Reuters is the world's largest international multimedia news agency, providing investing news, world news, business news, technology news, headline news, small business news, news alerts, personal finance, stock market, and mutual funds information available on Reuters.com, video, mobile, and interactive television platforms. Thomson Reuters journalists are subject to an Editorial Handbook which requires fair presentation and disclosure of relevant interests.
NYSE and AMEX quotes delayed by at least 20 minutes. Nasdaq delayed by at least 15 minutes. For a complete list of exchanges and delays, please click here.