DRC war persists as UN chief arrives

2013-05-22 20:50
M23 rebels in the Masisi and Sake areas of eastern Congo. (Jerome Delay, AP/File)

M23 rebels in the Masisi and Sake areas of eastern Congo. (Jerome Delay, AP/File)

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Goma -  M23 rebels fired two rockets into the eastern DRC city of Goma, killing one person and wounding four, officials said, in an apparent spillover from three days of fighting raging north of the city.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Congo's capital far to the west for a two-day visit expected to take him to Goma, where a new UN military brigade is being formed to attack rebel groups and bring stability to the mineral-rich region.

The two rockets exploded in Goma's Ndosho neighbourhood, said Colonel Premanku Ghosh, a UN peacekeeping officer in Congo who blamed M23 rebels. He said civilians were among the casualties.

Earlier, another official with the UN peacekeeping mission said one mortar round had exploded in the neighbourhood of Goma, apparently referring to the same attack. Ghosh said the range of the firing, over 10km indicated the weapons used were rockets.

Wednesday marked the third day of fighting between the rebels and government forces just north of Goma after a nearly six-month lull, officials said. Last November, the M23 rebels, who are allegedly supported and equipped by neighbouring Rwanda, seized Goma before retreating from the provincial capital fewer than two weeks later under intense international pressure.

The Congolese army is holding its positions in the area of Mutaho and there is no evident movement of M23 headed towards Goma, said Ghosh.

Mutaho, where the fighting broke out, is a largely unpopulated area in the dense forest at the foot of the Nyaragongo volcano, around 10km northeast of Goma. Both sides are bombarding each other with mortar rounds and rockets.

Congo, an enormous country the size of Western Europe, has endured decades of conflict, especially in its mineral-rich east. An investigation by UN experts found that Rwanda and Uganda have backed M23, which both governments deny.

Special intervention brigade

UN peacekeepers were widely criticised for failing to stop the rebel advance into Goma last November. Since then, the UN Security Council voted to create a special intervention brigade in Congo with a mandate to attack armed groups to bring back stability.

Ban Ki-moon is expected to discuss the brigade and a peace process initiated at a February summit when he meets with Congolese President Joseph Kabila on Wednesday in Kinshasa, Congo's capital.

Only around 100 soldiers from Tanzania have arrived so far to form part of the brigade. Congo's army has proven to be no match for the rebels, who are believed to be getting high-end equipment including night vision goggles from Rwanda.

The M23 called the creation of the intervention brigade "a declaration of war" and have vowed to fight the UN should they try to enter M23 territory.

Read more on:    m23  |  ban ki-moon  |  drc  |  central africa

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