Congo rebels capture key towns as conflict intensifies
REBELS IN eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have captured a series of key towns, plunging the country into its worst conflict for nearly five years and threatening the credibility of the government and UN peacekeepers.
The mutineers, led by a renegade general sought by the international criminal court, have marched through the east, to 40km from Goma, the capital of North Kivu province and headquarters of the UN mission.
The M23 mutineers – named after a peace deal they now criticise – want Congolese president Joseph Kabila to listen to their demands, insisting they are ready to march on Goma if necessary.
Last Friday the rebels seized Bunagana, a key trading town on the border with Uganda, before forcing their way deeper into North Kivu province at the weekend. They occupied several small villages and took control of the towns of Rutshuru and Rumangabo, north of Goma.
The M23 leadership are former fighters of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) rebel group that fought a bloody insurrection from 2006 to 2008. Then they were led by Laurent Nkunda and the notorious general Bosco “the Terminator” Ntaganda, who has been indicted for alleged war crimes.
The territory now held by M23 mirrors that controlled by the CNDP before it launched devastating attacks on Goma and other towns in the eastern Kivu provinces. That conflict ended with peace agreements signed on March 23rd, 2009; M23 insists that Kabila has not adhered to the terms of those accords and demands their full implementation.
“If the Congolese government wants the problem to be solved by war, I’m ready to fight,” M23 leader Col Sultani Makenga told the Guardian at the M23 base in Bunagana. “If they want peace talks, we shall have talks. If we have to march to Goma, we will do.” – (Guardian service)