M23 rebels dig in around Goma as leader heads for talks


Rebels in Democratic Republic of Congo have consolidated their positions in the hills around the seized city of Goma, as their leader flew to Uganda for talks aimed at convincing them to withdraw.

African leaders are scrambling to contain the latest violence in eastern Congo, where nearly two decades of conflict have been fuelled by political and ethnic rifts and competition over vast mineral resources.

Rebel M23 fighters captured Goma last week, eight months into an insurgency which UN experts say is backed by Rwanda, after Congolese soldiers withdrew and the world’s largest and most expensive UN peacekeeping force gave up defending the city.

The fighting raised fears for the safety of civilians and of a worsening refugee crisis, as well as triggering protests targeting the government and the United Nations.

Congolese president Joseph Kabila met M23 rebels for the first time at the weekend after a summit in Uganda where regional leaders gave M23 two days to leave Goma, but threatened no specific consequences.

The UN experts also accuse Uganda of backing the rebels, an allegation it denies. – (Reuters)