22 November 2012

Congo-Kinshasa: Over 2,000 DRC Soldiers Surrender to M23

Hundreds of government soldiers and police in the Democratic Republic of Congo have surrendered to rebels at a stadium in Goma. ( Resource: DR Congo Troops Surrender to Rebels )

At least 2,100 Congolese government soldiers and 700 policemen yesterday surrendered to the rebel group M23, as the rebel offensive approached Sake Town about 30 kilometres south of Goma.

The rebel fighters threatened to march on to the capital, Kinshasa, after capturing Goma the provincial capital of North Kivu, Tuesday.

During a public meeting in Goma yesterday, the movement's spokesman, Col. Jean Marie Vianney Kazarama said that they were determined to topple President Joseph Kabila.

He urged more armed personnel who are still in the hiding to join the force as it advances to Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu, and later Kinshasa.

"You have worked without any remuneration for very long, this should be the right time for you to join us," Kazarama told the defecting soldiers who were among thousands of residents who turned up for the meeting.

M23 was established in April this year by former officers within the Congolese armed forces, who mutinied against the national army after the government reneged on 2009 agreement with the CNDP rebel group.

"Do you want us to march to Kinshasa?" he asked, and the crowd shouted back in unison: "Yes."

Kazarama said "the journey to liberate DR Congo has started now".

The situation in Goma is currently calm and business is back to normal.

At the same occasion, over 300 residents joined the force and Kazarama disclosed that they would be trained at a military base in one of the captured areas.

Most soldiers who joined the rebel group said that they were tired of the mistreatment by the government.

"I have hope that we shall get a better living because the government does not care about its forces," a defecting soldier who identified himself as Jean Muhindo said.

By press time yesterday over 100 guns which were abandoned by FARDC soldiers who fled to Bukavu had been recovered and other military hardware.

The armed forces who defected to the rebel force after getting persuaded were immediately integrated into the rebel rank and file.

Media reports show that in Kisangani, the offices of the ruling party have been burnt down by protesters angered by the government's and UN's inability to protect them from the rebels.

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council yesterday adopted unanimously a resolution condemning the rebel seizure of Goma and calling for sanctions against M23 leaders.

The Presidents of Rwanda, Uganda and DRC- meeting in Kampala - have demanded the immediate withdrawal of M23 rebels from Goma and a halt to the offensive and threats to extend the rebellion to other parts of the DRC.

According to a joint statement by the three Heads of State, DRC's President Joseph Kabila, agreed to look into the grievances of the rebels.

"The Government of the DRC on its part has made a commitment to look expeditiously into the causes of discontent and address them as best as it can," the statement read adding that M23 had been notified.

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