Congo bids to form alliance to retake Goma

Thu, Nov 22, 2012, 00:00

The government of Congo is attempting to assemble a regional alliance to retake parts of the east of the country from rebels allegedly backed by Rwanda, in what could become a replay of the 1998- 2003 war.

The M23 rebel group captured Goma, the minerals and trading capital of the east, on Tuesday and was advancing on a second city, Bukavu, yesterday, after thousands of government troops defected to them. A senior official in Kinshasa said President Joseph Kabila had appointed a taskforce to shake up Congo’s crumbling defences.

Big decisions

“The reality now is that our army is not able to defend the country, unfortunately,” the official said. “In the coming hours or days we will take some big decisions, resigning the management of the army and appointing other people to run the army, and then try to set up a very, very small [leadership] with the support of another country to try to get back in Goma.”

The official cited Angola – which backed Congo in a 1998-2003 war that drew in the armies of nine countries in which millions died – as a possible partner. But the government has also been in talks with neighbouring Congo-Brazzaville and Tanzania.

The rebel capture of Goma has wrongfooted the international community and risks re-igniting a regional war and fatally weakening Mr Kabila, who faced protests across the country yesterday.

M23 rebels – who UN experts believe are commanded and supplied from neighbouring Rwanda – told crowds in Goma stadium yesterday that they would march to Kinshasa and that “Kabila will go!”

Hours later, Mr Kabila met Paul Kagame, the Rwandan president, for crisis talks in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, the fourth in two days.

“This could be the end of [the Democratic Republic of] Congo as we know it,” a senior regional official headed to Kampala said. “My biggest fear is the rebels will try to administer eastern Congo and break it off, and who’s going to stop them. Militarily, I don’t think anyone can stop them.” – ( Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2012)