News24

DRC troops set to enter Goma

2012-12-03 14:05

Sake - Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) government troops were preparing to move Monday into the eastern mining hub of Goma, after rebel M23 fighters pulled out at the weekend under a deal to end their two-week occupation.

The rebels' lightning capture of Goma last month - eight months after they launched an uprising against Kinshasa - had sparked fears of a wider war and major humanitarian crisis, and their withdrawal on Saturday was widely welcomed.

But while officials have said President Joseph Kabila will soon start "listening to the grievances" of the mainly Tutsi rebels as part of peace negotiations, there are few details of how the delicate talks will progress.

Soldiers from the national army have gathered at the Mubambiro camp close to the town of Sake, some 30km west from Goma in the lush green hills that border Lake Kivu.

"We are waiting [for orders] to return to Goma," a senior officer said, without explaining why there has been an apparent delay in deployment into the city, after it was initially expected troops would arrive on Sunday.

Tensions remain high in the war-blighted region, with gunmen on Saturday attacking the giant Mugunga camp, which lies about 10km west of Goma and is home to up to 35 000 displaced people.

At least 200 soldiers are in Mubambiro, apparently ready to leave with their backpacks once orders are given, according to an AFP journalist.

"I think in 24 or 48 hours they will be deployed," government spoksperson Lambert Mende told AFP.

"Logistics takes time... Moving thousands of men, it must be organised. The city [Goma] has been looted and ransacked, so preparations must be made for the arrival of these young people so they do not go stealing left and right."

Around a disused football field at the army camp, dozens of soldiers gathered in small groups, some sitting against trees or cooking food on stoves.