Rwandan-backed rebels at Goma's door

2012-11-18 18:34
(Supplied)

(Supplied)

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Goma - A Rwandan-backed rebel group advanced to within 1.8km from Goma, the provincial capital in eastern Congo, marking the first time that rebels have come this close since 2008.

Congolese army spokesperson Olivier Hamuli said the fighting had been going on since 06:00 on Sunday and the front line had moved to just a few kilometres outside the city.

After more than nine hours of violent clashes the two sides took a break, with M23 rebels establishing a checkpoint just 100m away from one held by the military in the village of Munigi, just outside the Goma city line.

Contacted by telephone on the front line, M23 rebel spokesperson Vianney Kazarama said the group would spend the night in Goma.

"We are about to take the town.

"We are confident that we can take Goma and then our next step will be to take Bukavu," he said mentioning the capital of the next province to the south.

The M23 rebel group is made up of soldiers from a now-defunct rebel army, the National Congress for the Defence of the People, or CNDP, a group made-up primarily of fighters from the Tutsi ethnic group - the ethnicity that was targeted in Rwanda's 1994 genocide.

In 2008, the CNDP led by Rwandan commando general Laurent Nkunda marched his soldiers to the doorstep of Goma, abruptly stopping just before taking the city.

In the negotiations that followed and which culminated in a 23 March 2009 peace deal, the CNDP agreed to disband and their fighters joined the national army of Congo.

They did not pick up their arms again until this spring, when hundreds of ex-CNDP fighters defected from the army in April, claiming that the Congolese government had failed to uphold their end of the 2009 agreement.

Reports, including one by the United Nations Group of Experts, have shown that M23 is actively being backed by Rwanda and the new rebellion is likely linked to the fight to control Congo's rich mineral wealth.




- AP
Read more on:    m23  |  drc  |  central africa
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