New Vision (Kampala)

Uganda: Museveni, Kagame Demand M23 Rebels Leave Goma

KAMPALA - The leaders of Uganda, DR Congo and Rwanda have demanded that the M23 rebels stop their offensive and pull out of Goma in an ongoing joint conference meeting at Speke Resort Munyonyo in Kampala Wednesday evening.

The rebels on Tuesday entered the main city of Goma in the mineral-rich east of the country despite efforts by government troops to stop them.

A column of rebel fighters entered the city from the main airport road, sweeping past government troops, and moved toward the centre of the city.

Earlier, President Yoweri Museveni Tuesday evening convened a crisis meeting with President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Joseph Kabila of the DRC over the crisis in Kabila's land.

According to diplomatic sources, Kabila and Kagame held private talks at Speke Resort Munyonyo before meeting their host.

Kabila: Will look into rebels' grievances

Congo's President Joseph Kabila appeared to soften his stance on the rebels in eastern Congo during the Wednesday meeting.

He said that he would look into their grievances, and that a report had been compiled to form the basis of any "contact" with the group.

Kabila's government repeatedly has rejected any direct talks with the M23 rebels, widely believed to be backed by Rwanda, who have captured the eastern city of Goma, and vowed to "liberate" all of the vast central African country.

"We've had a process that has been ongoing... what is called the evaluation of the turbulence," Kabila told a press conference after two days of talks with the Rwandan and Ugandan presidents, Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni, in Uganda to try to bring an end to the conflict.

The joint brief statement issued Wednesday evening reads in full:

"President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Chairman of the ICGLR, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Joseph Kabila of the DRC have been in a closed meeting in Kampala since Tuesday evening.

The three heads of State have discussed how to address the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in Eastern DRC after the capture of the North Kivu Provincial capital Goma, by the M23.

In solidarity with the Congolese people and their counterparts, President Yoweri Museveni and President Kagame made it clear that even if there were legitimate grievances by the mutinying group known as the M23, they cannot accept expansion of this war or entertain the idea of overthrowing the legitimate government of the DRC or undermining its authority. Therefore, the M23 rebel group must immediately stop its offensive and pull out of Goma. A plan to this end is being communicated to them.

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.

Furthermore, a comprehensive and operational plan geared towards lasting peace and stability will be drawn up as a matter of urgency.

The three heads of State welcomed the support of the Secretary General of the United Nations who dispatched a special envoy to Kampala to meet with them and discuss the matter... "

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